Monthly Archives: June 2012

Meet Rob Kaay…

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Rob Kaay to drop by.

Look out for the give-away at the end of the post.

Q: You’ve worked as a professional musician. (Rob was signed with Columbia records in his twenties and was based in New York and Melbourne. He had an epiphany when he turned thirty, returned to Perth and started working on Silverbirch his dark urban fantasy novel). Rather than approach a traditional publisher, you went straight to self publishing. I know many traditionally published writers are re-releasing their backlists by self publishing. What was your reasoning behind taking the self publishing route?

A: As soon as I finished my first draft of Silverbirch, I sent out twenty query letters, with the first three chapters attached, to some of the biggest publishing companies and agents in the world.  I aimed high.  One of the bigger firms got back to me with an interest to see more of the novel once I had completed the second draft.  It gave me great motivation to work on the book some more.  The only problem was, once I completed the second draft, I could see the possibility of the company liking the book and maybe picking it up.  A scenario flashed before my eyes that resembled what had happened to my band in the music industry, our music being picked up by a major label.  A system controlling how, when and why my work was released.  That whole situation; where a massive corporation was in total control of my artistic expression, left a sour taste in my mouth and caused me to want to work solo from that point forward.  I was reluctant to hop on that merry-go-round again, so I didn’t bother sending the second draft.  I released Silverbirch; A Tear in the Fabric of the Night Sky myself and plan on doing that with all my music and books in the future.

With the upcoming sequel, Silverbirch; Fall of the Epicenter, I am currently editing the third draft and have no plans on showing publishers or agents.  I don’t care how many copies I sell, I have written the sequel exclusively for those people who have found and enjoyed the first book.

Q: While you were on the road touring your wrote two journals about this experience. (See here). About one of them you say ‘this is what it’s really like being in a band’. Are these journals the sort of thing you don’t want your mother to read?

Actually, they’re both about what it’s really like being in a band.  I didn’t write the journals about one specific band though.  I created characters based on a number of different people in a number of bands I’ve been in and/or supported.  The character of Robkaay however is heavily based around myself.

I deliberately wrote the books in a journal type format to give kids who are thinking of dedicating their life to being in a touring rock band an up close and personal spectrum of exactly what is involved.  From what it’s really like to take drugs, sleep with groupies and be drunk for weeks on end.  In reality, it’s a lot different than how cool it sounds.  There are dark moments when my character talks from inside a depression and can’t believe he has sacrificed a beautiful relationship for the sake of a small piece of delusional unattainable fame.

As for the second part of your question . . . normally, if you’re in a rock band and you write about what it’s really like, you don’t want your mother to read it.  However, in my case, my mum was the editor!  Every few chapters she would ring me and ask, “Is this a character you are writing or did this really happen?!”

Q: From doing these author interviews I know that about 75% of writers are aural – they play music while they write, some even go so far as to make up lay lists of certain types of music to get them into the zone for a particular book. (The other 25% are visual and make up folders of photos). As a musician you have a soundtrack that goes with Silverbirch (available here). Is this because the music and the story are so intertwined that you can’t imagine producing one without producing the other?

While writing Silverbirch, sometimes I listen to my own instrumental music, but mostly I listen to other bands.  I listen to lots of Trent Reznor’s instrumental stuff like Ghosts I-IV, the Fight Club soundtrack, Moby’s free instrumental music, instrumental Crosses . . . anything really, as long as it’s cool and dark . . . just as long as there are no vocals.  Vocals distract me. (Rob is giving away a free EP to accompany Silverbirch).

Q: Regarding your premise for Silverbirch you said: ‘I’ve always been interested in what causes people to do crazy things when they’re not in control of themselves, like when they’re drunk, on drugs, angry or sleep deprived. Obviously in a touring rock band, I saw a lot of people doing crazy things they couldn’t remember, so I decided to create a race of people called Silvers who were influencing our decisions. That’s pretty much how Silverbirch; A Tear in the Fabric of the Night Sky was born.’ Did you research psychology to help you with the building of the Silvers’ society?

Nope.  I’m just writing fantastical ideas as I see them in my mind.

Q: You are working on a sequel to Silverbirch. ‘I specifically went travelling last year to the Lake District and London in England and Jordan in the Middle-East and Egypt and visited the Mayan Ruins in Mexico to write the sequel. I learned as much as I could about what the Egyptians and Mayans believed and wrote most of the next Silverbirch on the road.’ What do you look for when you travel like this? Are you going to specific places to set story elements, or are you looking for the feel of the place?

With Egypt, Jordan and Mexico, I wanted to learn more about ancient civilizations and marvel at what they accomplished and wonder at how.  Some of the things these ancient civilizations knew and could build between 3000 and 6000 years ago blows your mind.  Especially when you’re there, seeing how they made everything happen without mechanical engineering or steel.  How the hell did they pile 4-tonne slabs of stone on top of each other to form the Pyramids of Giza, fifty stories high, without steel cranes?  It’s still a mystery.  Also, what happened to the ancient Egyptians as a race of people and what is the true meaning behind their hieroglyphics?

When I travel to places with as much history as this, I like to immerse myself in the environment and allow my imagination to ask me all sorts of questions that most people would deem as weird.  It helps to unlock story ideas and pathways in my wild imagination.

With other places, like London and Grasmere in England . . . I talked my girlfriend into specifically visiting London because I wanted to write about Nudge storming the BBC Studios.  With Grasmere, I heard they had an abundance of silver birch trees.  The BBC Studios and the town of Grasmere have become key locations in the next book.  I find that I can’t write about a place properly and make it believable unless I’ve physically been there.

Q: The art for Silverbirch is particularly nice. Are you also an artist, or did you hire a freelancer to produce this artwork?

I know, I like to do everything I on my own!  But no, I am super crap at drawing.  If you asked me to draw you a stick figure of a man with shoes on, I’m sure it would come off looking more like a twisted tree with roots sunk in two ugly pots.

Ken Taylor from Melbourne illustrated the ‘young Nudge holding the mushroom‘ graphic for A Tear in the Fabric of the Night Sky.  Dan Mumford from London illustrated the ‘female reptilian from Venus‘ graphic for the upcoming novel, Fall of the Epicenter.

Q: With your background in music, do you plan to do more cross-platform releases or ‘enhanced’ e-books in future?

As a musician and author, I am seriously looking to explore greater ways to tell a story in the future.  For now, other than releasing my stories in written form, I am also creating podcasts, writing most of the music myself.

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

 I don’t think there is a difference just because a male or female writer has written something.  I think the difference comes from how different we all are as general Humans in the way we see the world.  How different we are all individually brought up in various environments with vast belief systems.  Everyone has something to say, regardless of gender.  If it’s interesting enough, lots of people will want to read the writing.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

Not at all.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

First up I would dial in the year 3000 B.C. to Egypt.  I want to see how they built the pyramids!  Second, I would dial in 3000.  I want to see how technology advances in the future.  I want to know what will become of the people of Earth and whether Humans are still the dominant species!

Giveaway Question: If you could go back stage and mingle with any band in the last 60 years, which band would it be and why?

(Rob is offering a paperback edition of Silverbirch; A Tear in the Fabric of the Night Sky and two signed limited edition bookmarks and stickers to a randomly selected winner!)

Catch up with Rob on Shelfari

Catch up with Rob on Goodreads

Catch up with Rob on Linkedin

Catch up with Rob on Facebook

Follow Rob on Twitter @robkaay

29 Comments

Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Book Giveaway, Comics/Graphic Novels, creativity, Fantasy books, Indy Press, Music and Writers, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry, Writers Working Across Mediums

Meet Nalini Haynes, Editor of Dark Matter ‘Zine…

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Nalini Haynes editor of Dark Matter E-zine to drop by.

The production of fanzines and magazines by dedicated fans of the speculative fiction genre is an old and proud tradition. Back when the ‘zines were produced on paper smelling of spirits and printed in faded purple ink from the roneo machine, editors compiled articles, interviews, reviews and stories which examined and celebrated the genre. And they are still doing this today, only now they don’t have to worry about squeezing their ‘zine into X number of pages and they can include wonderful colour covers. We’ve come a long way from the roneo machine.

 Q: You started school at the age of three at the Bruce Hamilton Sight Saving School for the Visually Handicapped. In an article in issue 9 of dark Matter you say: ‘I lost all disability access and support aged 5 and did not receive any more support until I was in high school, when I was given a telescope to read  the blackboard and a magnifying glass to read small print. It’s hardly surprising that I lean towards advocacy and over-achievement.’ Are you planning on doing your doctorate in disability in SFF literature? 

I would love to do a PhD in disability in SFF literature, but I haven’t been able to gain entry to a university to do a Masters as a lead in to this program or any other.  I was effectively expelled by the University of South Australia because of being disabled after the Human Rights and Equal Opportunities Commission made a finding of disability discrimination against UniSA.  In 2007 UniSA offered me $4000 as compensation for being permanently barred from further education and being gagged.  This offer was made through HREOC.  I was accepted back into UniSA after threatening to expose them on radio, then I was effectively expelled in 2008 after which their lawyer offered me $3086 with the same conditions.  Disability access would have cost far less than the compensation I was offered, let alone the lawyer’s fees.  I believe this has influenced universities’ handling of my applications for degrees since moving to Melbourne.  I would love to undertake a PhD in disability in SFF literature – I’m collecting a list of books to reference – but I don’t hold out much hope of being accepted into a program.

Q: Since 2010 you have produced nine issues of the Dark Matter E-zine. (Issue one is 53 pages long and issue 9 is 245 pages). This amounts to a lot of work, interviewing, writing articles, collating and editing. What prompted you to start Dark Matter and what do you hope to achieve with it?

My first memory of science fiction was watching Dr Who from behind my uncle’s chair when I was about 3 years old; it was a UNIT episode in black and white.  I’ve loved science fiction and fantasy ever since.  I started reading adult SF when I was 10 years old because Mum lent me her SF books when I was bored.

I worked on my high school newspaper.  It wasn’t much fun because we had no autonomy, it was more like being given assignments, but I was interested in doing a newsletter.

In 2008 I was selected for the upstART program in the Adelaide Fringe Festival.  I supervised my exhibition in the Fringe Factory for a few shifts, during one of which there was an exhibition/activity with zines in the next room.  This reminded me of the school newspaper and showed me that zines were around, with a vibrant community.

A few months later we moved to Melbourne.  I searched for some kind of connection to science fiction in Melbourne and found the Melbourne Science Fiction Club.  I was appointed as editor of Ethel, the club’s zine, for one issue, during which time I discovered the amazing resources and potential of zines.  After this, I decided that I didn’t need anyone’s permission to create a zine.  I came up with a name then I contacted publishers telling them I was now independent and asking them if they’d continue to support me.  I was off and running!

My goals for Dark Matter are many layered.  I’m learning about fandom, never before having participated in fandom due to growing up in Tasmania then living for 8 years in Adelaide where everything is a well-kept secret.  I believe that you get out of something what you put into it, so putting time and effort into Dark Matter – and fandom – rewards me in learning, building bridges and networks.  I am sharing my journey with everyone by writing about it in Dark Matter.  By interviewing a range of people I’m learning and sharing these discoveries with others while promoting good work.  I’ve met some amazing people and I’ve interviewed them *pointed look at Rowena*

I’m pleased and surprised to have an international following.  I try to have a balance between interviewing international and local authors.  By promoting the local authors, I hope to share the bounty we have with our sibling geeks across the water, enriching our shared culture.

I’ve agonised over whether to keep DMF entirely positive – like SF Squeecast – or to balance the positive with the negative.  Various people have argued from different positions, helping me shape DMF with some balance, including some negative reviews.  I have been strongly encouraged to be more negative with a view to helping raise the bar or to ‘really rip into things’.  I’m reserved with this because authors spend a huge amount of time writing their books, often while holding down a day job.  If I feel the need to write a negative review, I spell out clearly and respectfully the reasons why I don’t like the book.  If I feel that the target market will like the book but I’m not the target market, I’ll try to find a reviewer who is the target market.  In the meantime, I write a review bearing this in mind.

On a more personal level, I hope to prove to myself and the world that ‘I’m a real boy’, with skills that are viable in the workplace (computer skills, reading, writing, editing etc).  People tend to believe if you’re vision impaired then you’re incapable and incompetent.  I’m trying to prove that’s not the case.  I’m also hoping for an alternate career path to open up.  Failing that, I’m keeping myself busy focusing on an area that I enjoy.  I’ve never been the stay-at-home type although I did the full-time mum thing for a few years before studying counselling between child-raising, my son’s many operations etc.

Dark Matter is a positive focus for my time and energy, opening up a wonderful world of creativity and opportunity.  One day I hope to make this a real (read: paying) job, or get a similar job elsewhere (that pays).

 

Q: You have a Master in Social Science from the University of South Australia. With a background like that you must be very tempted to write social commentary either in article format, or by using fiction to examine possible futures. What kind of stories do you write?

I have lots of ideas, which I tend not to put to paper or even to electrons, however I have written some down.  I find it easier to write non-fiction, which is probably due to my academic background.

Recently I wrote a story about the thin veneer of civilisation, the inhumanity of man to man, called ‘Lighting the Way’.  This story still needs more work; I was in Kelly Link’s writing class at Continuum  (this year’s state and national SF convention) and received great feedback and lots of encouragement from Kelly and the other participants.  I haven’t finished the story yet.

Jim Vinton asked me if I’d replace my eyes with cyber implants if it would give me 20/20 vision.  My response: if it was proven to work, I would not have a choice because of the nature of definitions of disability; disability access would be closed to me unless I had that surgery.  This got me thinking… what if I had that surgery imposed upon me?  People don’t understand how I see: I perceive the world and cope better than I should be able to with my level of vision due to this being a life-long condition.  No-one would have any understanding of the changes that this surgery could cause.  I have studied psychology: when a limb is amputated, the brain structure changes, the area of the brain dedicated to that limb can be reassigned.  What if I had this surgery and the reverse happened?  What possibilities would open up to me?  What are the potential ramifications?  I have the entire story mapped out in my head in the style of ‘He says, She says’ the awesome ABC drama, I just haven’t put it to paper.

Back when the French were testing nuclear devices in the Pacific I wrote a short story about a woman who was eating fish regularly to ensure her baby would be healthy but…

I entered a public speaking competition where speakers were supposed to argue intelligently and emotionally about any topic of their choice.  I talked passionately about genocide and prejudice, relating the Hutus and Tutsis to my Irish grandmother’s hatred of Catholics…

So yes, you’re spot on.  I’m passionate about people and the human condition.  I think good storytelling relates to us here and now in some way, whether it’s as role models, teaching, challenging ideas, exploring ethics and philosophy.  Science fiction and fantasy is about people.

 

Q: In Dark Matter #9 you dedicated 25 pages to Gender in Publishing. You say: ‘If Jonathan Franzen writes a book about family it’s described as ‘a book about America’, whereas if a woman writes a book about family, it’s described as ‘chic lit’.’ You’ve promoted the Australian Women Writers’ 2012 Challenge. You’ve included interviews from male and female writers on the topic. The whole reason I started interviewing female fantasy writers was because US and UK interviewers seemed surprised to discover that I wrote fantasy. Have you had many responses to Dark Matter #9 yet, or is it too soon?

I haven’t had many responses to DMF9.  This is the only letter that addresses gender parity or the AWW in any way, from a guy who isn’t really a fan of parity but is a fan of Sean McMullen.  Between the lack of articles and the lack of letters, I am sad to say that issue 9 may stand alone in DMF’s attempt to tackle this issue.

Q: On the Dark Matter site there is a page dedicated to audio interviews. When you interviewed me at Sisters in Crime, you recorded us chatting, and later transcribed the interview and printed. Now this interview and others are up on the audio interview page. As an interviewer, what’s the difference between doing an interview that will be listened to as opposed to an interview that is transcribed and read?

HUGE. ENORMOUS. TERRIFYING.

Oh, you want specifics? 😉

An interview that will be transcribed and read can be much more casual.  There doesn’t need to be a formal introduction at the beginning, so we can meet or chat on the phone and just casually get into the interview.  An interview that is recorded for podcasting needs a formal beginning, an introduction to the author.  I’m still getting my head around this.  Recently I started interviews by just saying hello and thanks to the author I’m speaking to, but I think this needs to be expanded to a brief toast-master-style introduction.  I’m also thinking theme music to lead in to the interview and close would be good, as well as audible credits like with other podcasts.

Sound quality is an issue when putting interviews up as a podcast.  I was fairly casual when I interviewed you, putting my Dictaphone on the table so we could both be heard.  This is detrimental to audio-pickup, so I’ve started using the Dictaphone microphone.  This gives far superior sound for the interviewee but means anyone else is too quiet.  Mikey, the amazing audio guy at NatCon2012, suggested I record my questions separately and edit them in so there isn’t a problem with interview questions being too quiet in contrast.  This will take longer and require more editing, but it’s do-able, it’s much cheaper than buying good recording equipment and it’s easier than lugging good recording equipment around.  The downside is that joint interviews won’t work – unless I get 2 dictaphones and do more editing…

More on sound quality: I’ve interviewed people in some interesting places like coffee shops and outside the Spiegel tent.  Background noise can be a problem as well as interruptions.  Some interviews’ sound quality is so poor they cannot be put online, I’ve struggled to interpret what was said when transcribing them.  The other day I interviewed Yunyu for the second time over Skype and someone was talking in the background.  Background noise issues are simply unavoidable unless I get access to a professional recording studio, which is not in the foreseeable future.  I do the best I can with what I have and hope for the best.

In a transcribed interview it’s ok to go off-track, lose focus, or for people to say things that need to be edited out, like the classic, ‘Oh, wait, my publicist wants to release that information later, can we edit that out?’  In a recorded interview it’s important to stay on topic, to try not to ‘um’ and ‘ah’, and to keep things moving.  Also to turn off mobile phones…

From all the above, you probably think writing up interviews is easier, but really it’s not.  An hour interview can take 6 hours to write up effectively, more if the sound quality is poor or the person talks really quickly.  That’s before editing, proof reading, sending it to the interviewee for proofing, checking and making changes when it comes back…  It’s a huge amount of work.  I love the actual interviewing part, it’s fascinating listening to people’s stories, but I am over some of the other aspects of the work.  Seriously.

 

Q: Your cover Girl Torque (Dark Matter 3) was nominated for the Chronos Award. Do you also have a background in illustrating and which artists have inspired you?

I am a visually impaired person who is visually oriented.  Yes, I know that makes no sense, but it also helps explain why I’m such a photographer: auto-focus win!

Mum studied at the Tasmanian School of Art when I was a young adult.  I fell in love with art school then, but the pragmatic side of me – the part that never wanted to go hungry again – wanted a real, paying job.  That coupled with a desire to save the world resulted in me qualifying as a counsellor.  As I finished counselling studies I rewarded myself by beginning a Bachelor of Visual Arts degree as a counterpoint to counselling people and then as a substitute for working after losing my job.  I completed over a third of this degree at the University of South Australia with a distinction average due to working my butt off, but was effectively expelled for being disabled, unable to study theory or complete computer-oriented classes like Digital Art without disability access.

I’ve been in a few art exhibitions – selected and otherwise – and I was selected for the Adelaide Fringe Festival’s upstART program, an arts mentoring program for emerging artists.  I won the Dawn Slade-Faull Award in 2008.

Girl Torque and the cover for Dark Matter issue 1 are about the only artworks I’ve completed since moving to Melbourne, apart from photographical works.

Artists who have influenced me would largely be friends of the family as I grew up, friends while Mum was at art school and lecturers at art school like Mark Kimber, Deborah Pauwee and Aurelia Carbone to name but three [I did mention I love photography J].  Andrew Hall was my painting mentor for the upstART program but I was using acrylics.  I think I need to return to gouache, I find acrylics too heavy and I’m allergic to oils.  Trina was my lecturer for drawing.  I loved life drawing and Trina said that perhaps my poor vision was a blessing in disguise as I couldn’t see the finer detail that distracted others.  I have contrast vision ‘within normal parameters’ as well, so that helps with shading and tonal qualities.  I haven’t explored the world of SFF art much as I wasn’t really aware of fandom until after I moved to Melbourne, by which time I’d had the stuffing kicked out of me.  Also there is a bias against SFF art as ‘illustration’ (read: not real art) in art circles.

Being nominated for the Chronos Award for my painting was a huge honour and complete surprise.  I did my impersonation of a fish, opening and closing my mouth, while I read the announcement page about three times, checked the url and so forth, until gradually it sank in that yes, I’d really been nominated for my artwork.  I feel really self-conscious but also really encouraged by this nomination; I feel it’s a vote of confidence from others, encouraging me to take up paintbrush, charcoal and pastels once more.  I should probably also put some of my fan art on the webz, like my charcoal drawing of Chianna that is sticky-taped to a wardrobe door in the [laughingly titled] studio [aka third bedroom with an east-facing window L].  Friends came over not so long ago and were given a tour of our bookshelves.  I think they were more interested in the artwork in that room than the books on those particular shelves. 😉

 

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

Perceptions are that there is a difference between the way males and females write fantasy, but I grew up thinking Ursula le Guin was a guy.  You could have knocked me over with a feather when I discovered Andre Norton’s Witchworld was written by a woman.  I wish someone told me these authors were women when I first read their novels in primary school and high school respectively; I thought being published was effectively barred to women.

I think the stereotypical difference is that men write ‘hard fantasy’ (think A Song of Ice and Fire) while women write about relationships, often with a focus on romance, which has traditionally been looked down upon as soft fantasy.

 

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

 

Yes, it still does.  When a man is writing I still expect more action, less focus on women and possibly less focus on relationships.  For example, the Science and the Capitol trilogy has a lot of discussion about a non-traditional lifestyle and a huge focus on the main protagonist’s sex drive, but not a lot of focus on women as point of view characters.  No matter how well-equipped the protagonist was, the gender of the protagonist needed to be male.  The vulnerability of a homeless woman, the likelihood of being stalked and raped, would have made this a very different story with a gender change.  I wonder how conscious KSR was of this issue?

In contrast, the Wall of Night series by Helen Lowe has a variety of point of view characters, regardless of gender they come alive on the page.  Relationships are important, sex is more than just scratching an itch and yet the act of sex does not make a couple.  The first novel in this trilogy, Heir of Night, just won the Morningstar award, so instead of me spoiling the story read it yourself 😛

I’m reading a lot these days, so these differences are good.  I try to vary my reading diet: Australian, overseas, serious, comedy, SF and fantasy…  A change is as good as a holiday they say, and it certainly helps to re-energise me when I’m feeling a little burnt out.

 

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

This is the wrong question.  The question should be: what is your preferred time machine and with whom would you travel?  The answer:  a blue police box. Christopher Eccelston.

 

Dark Matter’s website

Follow Nalini on Twitter

Catch up with Dark Matter on Facebook

Catch up with the other blog on DMF’s website: Nalini’s ‘life’ blog

Catch up with Nalini on Google+

Interested in Fanzines? Search here at E-Fanzines

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, E-Zines, Gender Issues

Meet the team at Galactic Suburbia…

Today I’m interviewing the Intrepid Team who brings you Galactic Suburbia. Fresh from the Aurealis Award win for contributing to Speculative Fiction, and hot on the heels of a Hugo nomination, we’re going to range wide and far, from motherhood, deadlines, to goals and gender.

Q: First of all Congratulations on the Aurealis Award Win! The Peter McNamara Convenor’s Award for Excellence (named after Peter McNamara who was the original Aurealis Awards convenor as well as an Indie Press editor and publisher). This award celebrates work in any medium that brings credit to the field of Speculative Fiction. This must have been a buzz to win. Did some of you go to the awards night?

TANSY: it was very exciting to win it, and to hear such lovely things said about Galactic Suburbia and its effect on the community over the last few years.  We all went along except Finchy who was on parenting duty back home – but it was lovely for Alex, Alisa and I to be able to celebrate together on the night.

ALEX: it was my first Aurealis Awards night and very exciting to attend. The ceremony itself was really well constructed and it was a lot of fun being there to watch people get well-deserved awards… and a lot of fun to hang out with them after as well. Getting the award was a bit surreal, since it’s a fairly big deal and to think that the conveners thought us talking to each other was worth it is amazing.

ALISA: I was really excited to attend a Sydney Aurealis Awards night and it was a lot of fun. I’m constantly blown away by the way Galactic Suburbia has been received.

Q: I now hearGalactic Suburbia has been nominated for a Hugo! (Best FanCast) Do you have any idea of the number of people who are listening to what you have to say? And does it make you feel nervous?

FINCHY: We appear to be averaging just over fourteen hundred downloads per month from our episode list with around three hundred subscribers based mainly in Australia, US, UK and Canada as well as a handful in other countries such as Sweden, Belgium and the Philippines.

ALISA: I have to admit that I try not to think too much about how many people are listening. I think that the podcast works because of the synergy between three good friends just having a conversation and so I try not to get too self conscious about it. Course, there’s no avoiding that when we record live episodes in front of an audience! Which is actually a lot of fun.

ALEX: live episodes are heaps of fun! … except when they’re too early in the morning. I admit that I like looking at the number of hits our website gets, but it doesn’t translate in my head into ‘these people actually LISTEN.’ Being nominated for the Hugo is a totally mind-blowing thing – an award that non-community people have heard of!

TANSY: What is lovely is that so many of the people who do listen to our podcast either tweet or email us, sharing their experiences and joining the conversation.  I can never quite wrap my head around ‘400 people listened to that episode’ but once you get it down to about ‘5-10 people talked to us about that episode’ it feels more manageable!  We can sometimes see the influence we’ve had as books/ideas we recommend or suggest get picked up by other people with their own blogs or podcasts or communities around them, which is very exciting.

Q: On the Galactic Suburbia About page you have a description of yourselves, Alex the Reviewer and Teacher, Tansy the Fantasy Writer and Mum, Alisa the Indie Publisher and Engineer. (And we should include Finchy in there as the Silent Producer). But you don’t tell us what prompted you to start Galactic Suburbia. I’m guessing you all knew each other before this. Did you have Mission Statement? To Boldly Go Where No Other Podcast Had Gone?

ALISA: We started Galactic Suburbia for a bunch of reasons. Something that the three of us are really passionate about is offering diversity of opinions and voice in the genre and we were very conscious that most of the podcasts at the time featured mostly male voices. When our favourite podcast – Starship Sofanauts – finished, we were so sad to be losing the show that we genuinely thought about picking up the gauntlet. We realised though, much as we loved the format of the show, three women on a podcast would really be a different, and our own show. So we decided to launch Galactic Suburbia – vaguely based on the Sofanauts (an emphasis on news and views on current sf publishing) but with our own, feminist, twist.

ALEX: I wanted the excuse to chat with friends that I’m lucky to see once a year. Email is nice and all, but all talking at the same time is on an entirely different level of interaction. Other than that, what Alisa said.

TANSY: We also wanted to give the Australian perspective on publishing, science fiction, etc.  So often it’s the US (and to a lesser extent UK) voices which dominate the discussion, no matter what the medium.  We ended up with a great deal of happy accidents that weren’t originally planned – such as how much easier it is to have a discussion about crunchy feminist issues when people aren’t leaping into your comments thread to derail you!

Also I have to say the reviewing aspect pleases me a great deal – since my second daughter came along I have so little time for reading and even less for reviewing, which saddens me because I’m well aware of how important it is to have non-US female reviewers adding their voices to the discussion.  With Galactic Suburbia I have incentive to finish a book or two each fortnight, and to say something about it without having to write anything down!

Q: Can you give us a rundown on how you come up with the premise for an episode and then the mechanics of how you record it? Has this changed over time?

ALEX: When we started out, we had a three-part strategy: news first, then ‘Culture consumed’, then a ‘Pet subject.’ We quickly realised that we needed to include feedback, too, because we were actually getting some and it was nice to discuss it! While we enjoyed doing the pet subject, there were times when we couldn’t easily think of something crunchy enough to talk about… and then we discovered that we were in serious danger of going over two hours. Eventually we experimented with dropping the pet subject and giving ourselves a bit more time on the news etc; given that we do occasionally still threaten the two-hour mark, it’s probably been a good move!

TANSY: Recording wise, we all hop on to Skype.  Finchy presses the buttons (I’ll let him give more specifics) and we talk straight through, barring accidents of the internet, from beginning to end.  We have show notes up ahead of time in a shared Google Doc, which gives us the links to talk about in our news segment (we’ve all added to this doc in the weeks leading up to the episode), and a loose order of points of discussion, plus the works listed we’re going to review in our ‘Culture Consumed’ section.  We take turns to moderate episodes, so we share the burden of trying to keep it all on track and saying things like ‘and what have you been reading, Alex.’  Then the other two hop off Skype and go have dinner/go to bed while I tidy up the Show Notes, Finchy does the editing, and ‘casts’ the episode into the internet.

FINCHY: We use Audio Hijack Pro to capture the audio from Skype for all three presenters simultaneously, after spending a little bit of time checking their relative levels.  I edit in Garageband (mostly to eliminate technical glitches such as Skype dropping out) and export the compressed MP3 which is uploaded to Podbean using Cyberduck.  Content editing is rare as the presenters are amazingly fluent and we like to have the feel of a natural conversation.

ALISA: The recording through unless internet accidents has added a very real “suburban” feel to our show. Listeners have positively commented on the sound of babies and barking puppies in the background. I like the idea of it sounding like the three of us sitting round a kitchen table, having a cup of tea, and life going on around us.

Q: You all have work, some have families, Alisa is running Twelfth Planet Press (and getting married this year – TR) .  Like you I have work, family and deadlines. I feel like I’m running top speed just to stop from going backwards. Women can have it all, but is it worth it?

ALISA: I think women can have it all, just maybe not all at once. Is it worth it? Hell yes.
Sometimes I dream about just coming home from my day job and doing … actually, I have no idea what people without commitments do? But not often. I enjoy running my press and working with outstanding, creative people, and the intellectual challenge of it all. I enjoy the process just as much as I appreciate the rewards of my labours. I do worry about how I will fit a family in with it all and am starting to lay the preparation ground work for that now.

ALEX: I think it’s ‘all’ available, and I hope that we’re at the point where, if I don’t want to, I don’t HAVE to want it all. But I can help those of my friends who have bigger ambitions (Alisa…).

TANSY: People ask how I get it all done – how I write and balance my family responsibilities, kids, etc.  “How do you do so much”  It sometimes feels a bit like a veiled attack – “how do YOU do it when *I* don’t, what makes you so special?”  But it comes down to priorities.  You make time for writing, or fanzine editing, or convention running, or reviewing, or small press publishing, or whatever, if it’s important to you.  If you love it enough.  And yes, I have ambitions, mostly revolving around trying to earn a living in my field, but I don’t feel the need to have it all.  Where would I put it?

I think it’s a worry how easily the idea that ‘women can have it all’ has shifted to ‘women should have it all, and if they’re not achieving perfection across every aspect of life, they should feel bad about themselves.’  I’m not a perfect mother, partner, writer, feminist or podcaster, but I’m pretty happy with my life.  Galactic Suburbia gives us so much personal satisfaction right now, but I hope that if it ever becomes a chore or something to trudge through, my fellow podcasters would ditch it in a hot second and run off to find whatever else they need to make them happy.  If it’s not fun, what’s the point?

ALISA: I agree – I think it’s not, how DO you fit it all in but rather how much do you want it? And which bits do you really want? Because I most definitely cut corners in my life, mostly with the boring chores, to do the things I really want.

Q: You are all in your thirties and you’re all well educated, Engineer (Alisa), Classics Phd (Tansy), History Masters and Teaching (Alex). You’ve talked about gender from the Tiptree Awards, how comics portray females and Celebrating Joanna Russ. As someone who works with young women in their twenties I’ve come across the feeling that the feminist movement is old hat and a bit of an embarrassment.  How far have we come? How much farther do we need to go?

TANSY: I think that anyone who thinks feminism isn’t necessary isn’t looking at the world right now.  It’s never been more relevant to the lives of young women.  There are so many battles still to fight – in politics, in bodily autonomy, in law reform, in workplace equality.  And yes, in publishing and science fiction too.  Then there’s the challenge of intersectionality, of making sure that feminists are not trampling on the rights of others to get what they need, and that we remember that racism, homophobia and ableism are rife in our communities.

Like knitting and crochet, I like to think that feminism is coming back into vogue among the young.  And books matter, just like the representation of gender in all cultural products matters – it’s how we shape ourselves as a society.  Women are constantly in danger of the backlash, of being told it’s time to sit down and shut up because the men are talking.  And while sexism is often (but not always) more subtle and insidious than in previous decades, it’s still with us.

Nothing makes us happier than hearing from our male listeners about how they have become readers of and advocates for women’s work because of Galactic Suburbia.  Though it’s also pretty fabulous when we hear from women who have also changed their way of thinking towards feminism, the work of other women, and gender issues in general, because of us.  We’re not gurus or experts in gender theory and we’re certainly not perfect feminists – we’re just showing our work as we make our own imperfect journeys forward in figuring things out for ourselves, and it’s lovely how many people want to come along for the ride.

ALISA: It makes me sad when I talk over feminism with my mum and realise that we haven’t really come anywhere near as far as maybe we should have for the time frame. On the other hand, I know so many men who have their head around the issues and are not only walking the talk, they’re active advocates. Is feminism old hat? I don’t think so. Does it need to constantly be reviewed and updated, I think yes. I think one problem is that the really overt aspects of sexism have been addressed, and hopefully mostly improved. Like you can’t not hire or promote me just because I’m getting married later this year and probably will want to start a family soon. But the battle now is to bring to light the subtle, subconscious and culturally condititioned aspects of sexism. This battle in some ways is a much harder one but at the same time, I think it’s deeply fascinating. Certainly the most positive interactions I’ve had with Galactic Suburbia is when someone has thought about something we’ve discussed and then gone away to look at their own actions, found them wanting AND then done something about that – like actively reading and talking about female writers and their work.

Alex: … all of that.

Q: Where do you see Galactic Suburbia going in the future?

ALEX: Wiscon…  😀

TANSY: WISCON OR BUST!

ALISA: I’m with them!

Q: Individually, what would you like to achieve in the next year and in the next 5 years?

ALEX: I just want to read a lot of really good books. And talk about them.

TANSY: I want to *write* a lot of really good books.  Selling some wouldn’t hurt either.  I want to earn a living at this writing thing and that means getting my ambition into gear.  So glad I have good friends to keep me sane along the way.

ALISA: I want to *publish* a lot of really good books.  I’m looking forward to completing the Twelve Planets series, launching our new crime imprint Deadlines, and releasing our first novel. In the next 5 years? I probably want it all 🙂

See an overview of 2011 podcasts.
Catch up with Galactic Suburbia on Facebook
Catch up with Galactic Suburbia on iTunes
Catch up with Galactic Suburbia on Twitter @GalacticSuburbs
Catch up with them individually on Twitter
Tansy @tansyrr
Alisa @Krasnostein
Alex @randomisalex

Blogs
Tansy Rayner Roberts
Alisa Krasnostein
Alexandra Pierce

3 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Awards, Conferences and Conventions, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Genre, Indy Press, Nourish the Writer, Podcasts, Publishing Industry, Readers, Reviewers, The Writing Fraternity

Winner Simon Haynes Book Give-away!

Simon says (always wanted to do that!):

I enjoyed the responses to the question ‘If you were ten years old and you lived aboard a futuristic space station, what’s the first thing you’d do?’ Hitting the wrong button would be all too easy, and the results could be catastrophic. Zero-grav splish-splash in pond slime and body fluids … now that sounds like a good idea for a YA title …

However, my favourite response was the setting of traps for other people. As a kid there were plenty of people I’d happily have fed into a garbage chute … and I wasn’t even related to most of them!

So Peter Hannigan you’re the winner. Please contact Simon here to organise your book prize.

Leave a comment

Filed under Australian Writers, Book Giveaway

Meet Simon Haynes, Hal Spacejock’s alter ego…

I have been featuring fantastic female fantasy authors (see disclaimer) but this has morphed into interesting people in the speculative fiction world. Today I’ve invited the talented Simon Haynes to drop by.

Look out for the give-away at the end of the post.

Q: I discovered the first of your Hal Spacejock series  years ago and bought the whole set.  On your web page you have a list of humour SF series, Bill the Galactic Hero, Red Dwarf, Hal Spacejock, Stainless Steel Rat and Hitch Hikers Guide to the Galaxy. It’s a very small pool of really brilliant books. It is incredibly hard to write humour and then to write humorous SF makes it even harder. What’s your philosophy about humour?

First off, thanks for buying the books. If everyone did that SF Comedy wouldn’t be such a niche genre. Then again, publishers would leap on the unexpected craze and the market would be swamped. So, whatever you do, don’t buy SF Comedy!

The problem with adding humour to any novel is that the gatekeepers (editors, publishers, bean counters) have to GET it. If the style of humour doesn’t appeal to them, they can extrapolate from that and decide nobody else will enjoy it, either. There’s also that whole ‘am I the only one laughing?’ thing with humour. If you’re the only one smiling, does that mean you have a keen sense of humour, or does everyone else just have better taste for fine comedy? (It’s like sipping wine and making appreciative noises while everyone else is pulling faces and emptying their glasses into pot plants.)

Hal Spacejock contains a fair bit of geek humour, with in-jokes about operating systems and computers, and pokes at genre classics such as Star Wars and Star Trek. If that whistles past the reader, they’re left with the next layer of humour, and they might think that’s all there is.

I guess this is why humorous novels polarise reviewers and readers, although it’s all too easy for authors to throw their hands up and exclaim that nobody ‘gets it’. You have to work hard to make sure as many people as possible get it, without dumbing things down.

Q: Your BIO says you… ‘returned to Curtin (University) in 1997, graduating with a degree in Computer Science two years later. An early version of Hal Spacejock was written during the lectures.’  Seriously, did you write your book during lectures? I lecture first year UNI students. I don’t think many of them are sitting up the back writing books. I think they’re texting or on Facebook.

By the time I signed up for my computing degree I’d been programming for over 15 years. The only reason I applied for the degree was because I was self-taught, and I figured the qualification wouldn’t do any harm.

A lot of the early lectures covered really basic stuff – peripherals, really trivial programming, etc – and so I sat up the back with my trusty old laptop, plotting and typing away.

Once the material moved ahead of me I put the laptop away and paid proper attention. I still managed to write most of the novel at uni though –  I used to finish work at 4-ish, go straight to Curtin and type in the library until the lectures or tutes started.

Q: I can see how Hal Junior would be heaps of fun to write. You say, ‘I drew on my childhood for inspiration. My younger brother and I grew up in a small village in rural Spain, and ‘untamed’ doesn’t cover the daily scenes of chaos and destruction.’  Do you have sons? Are they giving you grey hairs?

Two daughters, and yes 😉  They’ve had access to a wide range of hobbies and physical activities, from archery to bike riding, martial arts to soccer, digital art to oil painting. There weren’t any frilly dresses or dollies, that’s for sure. They’re mad keen computer games, the pair of them. One’s running her own minecraft server, and the other is working on a graphic novel based on her favourite computer game.

Q: You decided to self publish your Hal Junior books. I’ve met a lot of authors who have been down the traditional publishing route and have opted for self publishing. What was your reasoning behind your decision?

There were several, and they all came to a head at once:

Fremantle Press have treated me well, so it was natural to offer them the new series first. After a couple of months they let me know they were going to pass on Hal Junior – not because it was a pile of crap, but because they felt I should take it to a bigger publisher who would be able to do it justice. This was just after several bookselling chains had folded, and Fremantle Press doesn’t have distribution into the big department stores.

So, I changed the title from ‘Hal Spacejock Junior’ to ‘Hal Junior’, and rejigged the book. I decided to change it so that it featured Hal Spacejock’s son (not Hal as a child). In June last year I sent queries off to three Aussie publishers. Honestly, it was a token effort: I would send out three queries, probably get rejected within a week, move on.

So, I started making plans to self-publish the book. I had a meeting with Fremantle Press because I wanted to discuss the Hal Spacejock ebook rights. None of the books were on Kindle, and I wanted to take them back and issue them myself. At the same meeting I confessed that all my time was going into Hal Jnr, and I didn’t feel Hal Spacejock 5 was anywhere near completion. We agreed to terminate Hal Spacjeock, and I got my Hal Spacejock e-rights back.

At this point (July), I suddenly had four new titles to self-publish, and it seemed crazy to give the Hal Junior series to another publisher instead of releasing it through my own imprint.

Then the kicker … Tehani told me Lightning Source had just set up in Australia. I checked their print prices and was instantly converted. I wrote to the Aussie publishers, who’d already had the queries for three months, and withdrew my submissions. Then I started tidying up Hal Junior for an indie release, including commissioning a cover artist and hiring an editor.

About two months after Hal Junior came out I got an email from one of the Aussie publishers expressing interest in the series and requesting a full manuscript. Oops, missed the boat, should have been quicker off the mark. (I honestly thought publishers would treat an enquiry from an established author a little quicker, but hey, it’s not my problem any more. And I’ve never really considered myself established, just perched precariously on the second rung.)

Q: I was prompted to start this series of interviews because there seems to be a perception in the US and the UK that fantasy is a bit of a boy’s club. Do you think there’s a difference in the way males and females write fantasy?

The finished version of any novel depends on the writer’s skill, influences, tastes and the environment they grew up, not their sex. Take one aspect: sword fighting. Imagine a male writer who has never swung a sword in anger, sitting down to write a sword fighting scene. Now imagine a female writer who is a member of SCA, or a keen fencer, sitting down to write a combat scene. I’m betting the latter will be far more authentic, and the writer’s gender has nothing to do with it.

Q: Following on from that, does the gender of the writer change your expectations when you pick up their book?

Nope. I pick books based on recommendations, buzz, and my own taste. Most years my new book purchases are at cons, which means GOH books and those by fellow writers. Lately I’ve been reading a lot of junior (middle grade) fiction to see what I’m doing right (or wrong) in terms of tone, language, content and so on. I couldn’t tell you the gender of the authors, because I’ve been reading whatever I can lay my hands on.

Q: And here’s the fun question. If you could book a trip on a time machine, where and when would you go, and why?

It would be good to go back to certain moments in my childhood so I could correct a few wrongs. I’m saying no more.

 

Giveaway Question:  If you were ten years old and you lived aboard a futuristic space station, what’s the first thing you’d do?

The winner will receive an autographed copy of Hal Junior: The Secret Signal OR Hal Junior: The Missing Case. If your idea is better than mine I’ll probably steal it for Hal Junior 27: The Stolen Idea.

 

Catch up with Hal Junior on Facebook

Catch up with Simon on Goodreads

Catch up with Simon’s blog on writing and publishing

Follow Simon on Twitter @spacejock

Check out Simon’s free writing and reading software

And finally, the Hal Spacejock and Hal Junior website

 

5 Comments

Filed under Australian Artists, Australian Writers, Characterisation, Children's Books, Covers, creativity, Fun Stuff, Gender Issues, Nourish the Writer, Promoting your Book, Publishing Industry, Readers, Story Arc, Tips for Developing Writers, Young Adult Books

Aussie Female Fantasy Authors featured in Mainstream Media

Great article on Australian female fantasy authors in the Melbourne Age today. (Great photo of Kim Westwood).

If I was American I’d say, ‘You go Girls!’ But since I’m an Aussie I’ll say, ‘Good on yer, mate!’

I think I’ve interviewed all of these writers on my blog. Check out the interview page if you want to know more about them.

In the article Tansy Rayner Roberts says that she thinks science fiction is due for a comeback. Her feeling is that a lot of the trends in reading are being led by Young Adult.  You just have to look at the popularity of Harry Potter, Twlight and now the Hunger Games. What do you think?

2 Comments

Filed under Australian Writers, Fantasy books, Female Fantasy Authors, Gender Issues, Promoting Friend's Books, Publishing Industry