Aug 1, 2014

Snapshot 2014 – Laura E. Goodin

SnaphotLogo2014You are a multi-talented writer and poet, not to mention fencer (the sword carrying kind ). What has your creative attention at the moment that you can talk to us about?

I've started writing a script -- spec fic for the stage!  And it's got opera bits in it!  And swords!  It's going slowly, because I'm trying to fit it in around a number of horrendous time-sucks, including earning a living and getting ready to move for the third time in five years.  I'm also in the musing stage of a swashbuckling novel, which also has swords in it, and a short story that coincidentally ALSO has swords in it.  And a poem that doesn't have swords in it, but I'm thinking that it suffers thereby, and I may remedy it soon.  I spent much of last year collaborating with my husband, composer Houston Dunleavy, on a bunch of texts that he set, and on a one-man musical we wrote with the actor and produced in Sydney.  This year's writing has been more solitary.  So far, at least.


Your most recent work was a play "Useless Questions" performed in Sacramento in February, you also write Libretti, what do these writing outlets supply that say, short fiction doesn't?

Performance writing provides some really daunting, and yet exhilarating, challenges.  Your writing must be entirely pared down to where the bone shavings are curling from the blade.  It must be as spare, and yet as intense, as poetry, and still give the audience the lavishness of a novel -- with no descriptive passages or inner monologues to do the hard work for you.  And then, once you've written it, you have to workshop it, because it must function in real time.  And then you must get it produced, which you'll probably have to do yourself.  And then you have to surrender control over the work almost entirely as the director and the actors bring their own incandescent talents to it -- and you have to be able to passionately love what they do to it, with it, for it.  And THEN you have the nail-biting terror of the audience watching it RIGHT THERE IN FRONT OF YOU OH GOD WHAT IF THEY HATE IT.  Yeah.  You know you're alive when you write for performance, all right.


Among your many creative outlets and productions I don't notice a novel. Is this a form that you want to attempt in the future or do you find that plays, libretti, poetry and short fiction allow you to do what you want creatively?

Oh, there are novels.  They languish.  We will not speak of this again.


What Australian works have you loved recently?

I am humiliated to admit that I have read pretty much zero fiction over the past year, let alone Australian works, let ALONE any works by my friends.  I'm reading a lot of nonfiction, largely to give myself some background to yet ANOTHER novel, which will includes swords only incidentally.  I'm branching out.


Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

You know, I can't honestly say that recent changes in publishing have had any effect on my working style or my career objectives.  I figure my first job is to make sure I have some product; how I sell it is something that I'll worry about later.  This may be tragically, regrettably naive of me, but I feel yucky if I start trying to market my "brand" or whatever.  I have to trust the writing.  If I try to force opportunities, they'll look...well, forced.  Dancer John W. Bubbles was quoted by Maurice Hines as saying, “Never do a step that you don’t love because the audience will see it.” I feel the same way about what I write:  if it's for the sake of getting published, rather than for the sake of the story, the reader will be able to tell.  They will.
As to what I'll be publishing/writing/reading in five years?  I'm hoping to release some of those novels into the wild.  I'm hoping to be writing works of heart-stopping artistic courage that make everyone who reads or sees them strive to be ever more fully human.  And I'm hoping to be reading more of my friends' fabulous stuff. 



Laura E. Goodin is a writer of science fiction, fantasy, old-fashioned adventure, humor, plays, libretti, poetry, and (very occasionally) nonfiction. Her work has been published and/or performed on three continents, and plenty more projects are in the works.
Laura is interested not only in the wondrous and sublime that form the core of speculative fiction, but in how music, drama, and other performance arts can incorporate a bit of surreality, unreality, and hyperreality. Encountering strangeness and wonder in unexpected places and unexpected ways is what she finds most intriguing and exciting about being a writer.

Laura can be found here at her website.



This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can find other interviews in this series at the links below:

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jul 31, 2014

Snapshot 2014 – Michelle E. Goldsmith

SnaphotLogo2014You have been quietly working away, getting published in genre magazines and in anthologies, is there any current story or collection that you were/are excited about?

I have only really been writing and being published for a couple of years, so every sale is still very exciting to me. Actually, I still get a little thrill with every promising new story idea or whenever I finish the first draft of anything.  

Selling my first published story ‘The Hound of Henry Hortinger’ was super exciting because it was so unexpected. I’d always written bits and pieces and intended to aim for publication one day but I had never really finished anything before and it was the first time I had submitted a piece. At the time I had taken leave from university due to a chronic illness and was bored and frustrated at home. I saw a call for subs that happened to match my story idea and decided to write and submit it. I assumed that it would be rejected, but that I might get some useful feedback. To my surprise my rejection email was actually an acceptance. Cue much rejoicing. However, it did ruin my plans of procrastinating for a few more years by telling myself I wasn’t ready to write anything publishable yet.

That said, when I look back at my previously published works I’m obviously proud of them, but I am also usually looking at them through the lens of a significant portion of my ‘career’. So I often see the areas where I could improve or where I’ve learned since and might have done something a bit differently if I was writing that story now. I’m not quite sure if that is an early career thing, a symptom of youth (I probably am a little bit younger than most published writers I’ve met), or if it is universal to most writers.

This often means that the most exciting stories at any given time are the ones I’m yet to write; the ones that have the potential to excel above anything I’ve written before. I’m pretty sure that my best work is still to come and that is exciting in itself.

'The Hound of Henry Hortinger' was also translated into Russian recently and is appearing in a special edition of SNOB magazine, along with five other stories from the original anthology it was published in. One of the other stories is by my mentor, Kaaron Warren. The whole thing was a really exciting and unexpected development that was arranged by the people at the magazine in association with the British Council of the Arts. I just got a surprise email from Jared (the original publisher), signed a contract and then he kindly worked out the details from there. I believe this involved complicated administrative procedures where the necessary rights went from me to him, then to the British Council, then to Russian translators, then to SNOB. Vice versa for the payment. 

I can't wait for my contributor copy to arrive even though I won't be able to read it.  


2. As well as a short fiction writer you do (or did) also review speculative fiction.  How do you think being a reviewer contributes to your fiction writing?

I used to write a lot of reviews although I rarely do anymore. I started reviewing when I was working as a bookseller. My favourite part of the job was experiencing new books and sharing them with others. Online reviewing was a way to expand that beyond the scope of one smallish bookstore. It was also a way to do something productive, be involved in a community and to interact with people who shared my interests while I was too ill to go out much and was feeling a bit isolated while most of my friends were at uni or work.

Now that my last operation appears to have worked I finally feel a fair bit healthier and have to balance my own writing, a job and a Masters degree (all the while attempting not to neglect my partner, family, friends, pets and other general responsibilities of life). Unfortunately, this means I have less time to write reviews, especially not the detailed essay length type that I favour. I still write shorter ones occasionally to promote books I love and recommend books to people in other ways, but maintaining a regular reviewing schedule with people relying on me just isn’t a viable option at the moment.

I think reviewing was an invaluable step to improving my own writing and getting published. It forces you to think critically and identify exactly what within a story works and what doesn’t. It made me pay a lot more attention to technique. I also think that critically evaluating works and interacting with authors really helped me build confidence and reaffirmed that writing was not some strange magic achievable only by a select few and requiring a communion with unimaginable higher powers and possibly the sacrifice of your firstborn child. It’s a craft and a skill that you need to work at. I also met some great people through reviewing. Possibly most importantly, as a reviewer you read a lot of books and, in my opinion, the more you read the better for your own writing.


You write short fiction (and technical writing as the day job), is there a particular market that you would like to crack or do you have a longer work as an end goal?

I have so many goals! Any specific ones of course are secondary to the primary goal of continuing to write and to keep improving.

I really enjoy writing short fiction. I also enjoy reading it and have never thought of it just as a way of gaining publication credits to help me sell longer works in the future. You do hear people express that view of short fiction now and then and I don’t really understand it. I think a short story and a novel are very different art forms in many ways. I imagine I will always continue to write short stories because some stories and ideas are just suited to a shorter form while some require more space.

In regards to short fiction goals, I’d love to break into the pro markets and I want to have stories appear in my favourite journals and in anthologies from my favourite small presses (eg. Twelfth Planet Press, Ticonderoga, Clarkesword, Shimmer and many more). I’d love to have a story reprinted in a ‘Year’s Best’ anthology, whether Australian or international. I would also like to write a themed cross-genre short story collection focusing on human parallels to and interactions with other species and the wider natural world (that’s the zoologist/evolutionary biologist in me coming out). I’d also love to edit an anthology at some stage.

As you can probably tell, I do tend to dream big. I find that even if I don’t think I’m likely to achieve something anytime soon, sometimes it actually works out.

Keeping that in mind, I also have longer works planned. I have some novels that I’m working on, and the first one (a secondary world fantasy, possibly with some elements of weird fiction) is pretty much fully plotted out. I intend to start working on them seriously again soon, once I’ve cleared some of my short story backlog. I put the longer works on hold for a little while because as a writer, my skills and confidence are still developing. I know this is always the case, but when I first started working on the longer works (straight after selling my first short) I never got anywhere because by the time I finished a few chapters I would realize I’d learned a lot more and would want to rewrite the entire thing to go in a completely new direction. I think I have the whole thing more settled in my mind and have learned a bit more discipline now and am almost ready to give it another go. This time I intend to finish the entire first draft before I start hacking at it.

Technical writing and editing pays the bills, comes with its own sense of achievement and I believe it has taught me greater self-discipline (I’m paid by the hour so I can’t sit there procrastinating, I have to jump straight in and write). It’s a different type of writing but it still relies on stringing words together to achieve a specific purpose.

Also, there is nothing like writing thousands of words about valves or fibre optic cables to put you in the mood to switch your brain to a slightly more imaginative frequency and write 6000 words on, for instance, a girl who has a crow’s head or can only relate to jellyfish.

Overall, I have no ultimate goal because that would require an ‘end’ in sight. I don’t intend to stop writing anytime soon. I tried not to write and to forget the stories once and it didn’t work out for me.


4. What Australian works have you loved recently?

Ha! So many great works are coming out of Australia at the moment, many of them thanks to the work of smaller presses. No doubt I will forget heaps and then feel a bit guilty later.

Anyway, here are a few of my recent favourites:


  • Trucksong by Andrew MacRae
  • Bitter Greens by Kate Forsyth
  • Salvage by Jason Nahrung
  • The Etched City by K. J. Bishop

Short Fiction:

  • The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories by Joanne Anderton
  • Caution: contains small parts by Kirstyn McDermott
  • Dead Sea Fruit by Kaaron Warren
  • Bluegrass Symphony by Lisa L. Hannett
  • The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror by Liz Grzyb and Talie Helene (eds.)


Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

Well I haven’t been around long enough to really change the way I work in response to any changes. However, trends in the current publishing environment (or even the perceptions thereof) no doubt influence most writers in some way.

There seems to be an increasing focus on promotion and the author as a persona, which (without launching into one of my recent uni research projects) can be both a good and a bad thing for authors and writing. On a personal level, realising this made it clear to me that most people can’t write, submit and then sit around waiting for readers to find their work anymore.

Hopefully in five years time the future will seem a little less murky for authors, editors and publishers. Personally, I hope to be writing more than ever and hopefully helping to edit and publish worthy works and bring them to an audience. In addition to writing my own fiction, I get great satisfaction from helping others improve their own work and helping it reach its potential. I hope that we will see greater diversity in the field and exciting new writers will come through while established names continue to put out good work.

On a wider scale and over a longer timeframe, the future of writing and publishing is exciting, intimidating and probably mostly unknowable. Many different factors will undoubtedly come into play and many of them will probably come from left of field.

Nevertheless, more work is being published than ever before and I believe that as long as the human race exists there will always be people telling stories. Therefore I think publishers and editors will exist long into the foreseeable future. Their roles may change a bit, and the traditional ‘gatekeepers’ may act more as content filters to help readers choose in a market overwhelmed by choice, but publishers will still exist in some form or another and still fulfill their primary role of adding value to works.

Some developments in the publishing world can be a bit worrying for writers and the wider book industry and often there is reason to worry. I’m not sure it will become easier for writers to make a living in the foreseeable future, so I won’t give up the day job. There will almost certainly be ups and downs but while I used to be more fatalistic the more I learn the more I believe that eventually, barring complete disaster, we will emerge to a industry with a greater number of options available.  

While we may worry about certain things (like too much power invested in single companies) the industry will most likely adapt and in the end developments making publishing easier (as evident in the rise of self-publishing and the small presses) may be good for authors as the larger publishers are forced to innovate and offer them more.

We have seen ebooks become more widespread but they are not following the traditional pattern of a disrupting technology that would suggest they will completely replace physical books. I believe that paper books will still exist to some extent (different formats will probably end up holding different market shares for different types of books) for a long time to come. This seems even more likely when various innovations continue to make producing paper books easier and due to the fact that when you look at the production costs of a book, the physical binding and distribution don’t actually make up that large a percentage of the costs for most decent sized print runs.

I don’t think that reading ebooks on a single purpose device mostly restricted to one retailer will be the way most people read books in decades to come. That model seems like a ripe target for disruption. The device we read ebooks on will probably become one that fulfills multiple functions in the near future.

Of course, this is all just educated speculation and I could be wrong on any or all counts. Perhaps the human race will be overrun by amphibious, caffeine-fueled lake creatures any day now. On that note, I might finish up. I hear the song of my people calling me. Thanks for having me!



DSC01398Michelle E. Goldsmith is a science graduate (majoring in Zoology/Ecology) and author whose writing often inhabits the shady borderlands between genres.

Her life science background and particular fondness for the stranger aspects of the natural world often inform her fiction. Therefore, as she tries to write in a wide range of styles and genres, steps must sometimes be taken to prevent her from working mandibles, cilia and/or tentacles into unlikely places (on the page).

Among other things, she has worked as a bookseller, a book reviewer and an English and Biology tutor.

She currently lurks in Melbourne, Victoria where she works writing and editing articles for a number of technical magazines, is undertaking a Masters in Publishing and Communications and is a member of the SuperNOVA writers group.

She has fiction published in such places as Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine, Use Only as Directed (Peggy Bright Books, Australia) and the Dickensian weird anthology Pandemonium: Stories of the Smoke (Jurassic, London).

Her work has also appeared on the recommended reading list of The Year's Best Australian Fantasy and Horror (Ticonderoga) and she was shortlisted for a Ditmar award for Best New Talent in 2014. 

This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can find other interviews in this series at the links below:

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.

Jul 30, 2014

Snapshot 2014- Russell Blackford

SnaphotLogo2014 Your latest project is a co-edited collection of essays with fellow Australian science fiction author Damien Broderick called, Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds.  Some may claim that one role of science fiction is to point us towards the possible, to engage us in thinking ahead.  Are there topics, conundrums, possibilities contained within Intelligence Unbound that you are not seeing being echoed in fiction?

I don’t think the roles of fiction and non-fiction are the same with something like this. Science fiction can explore the possible social consequences of technology, highlight metaphysical and moral conundrums, bring out how events might impact on people. Through story, world-building, and character, it can consider the impact of innovations and ideas in ways that might go beyond what is doable in “straight” science or in philosophy. Still, it can’t do what scientists do when they actually conduct observations and experiments or even what philosophers do when they try to analyse concepts and anxieties in a rigorous way, when they examine the formal cogency of arguments, etc. So it’s not so much that there are issues that are unexplored in fiction. I suspect that most of the issues discussed by the contributors to Intelligence Unbound have, indeed, been explored in fiction, e.g. in the work of Greg Egan. But the various kinds of exploration – seen in fiction, in science, in philosophy, etc., are not substitutes for each other.


Earlier in the year you had Humanity Enhanced Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies, published. It tackles many of the moral and ethical objections to human enhancement.  When you look at popular culture and the infiltration of science fictional themes into the mainstream, do you see these science fictional products as engaging in important ideas or are they largely conservative, pushing the "What if something goes wrong?" point of view instead of the "What might be possible?"

There’s a strong element of technophobia running through science fiction as a genre, though this varies from time to time and place to place. Certainly, much science fiction is technophobic when it comes to genetic technologies. Still, one feature of the sf mega-text is its essentially ambivalent attitude to technology. Even in a work with strong technophobic elements, technology may at the same time have alluring, pleasant, liberating aspects. In individual works, more cautionary, fearful attitudes to technology may prevail, but there is usually some aspect that subverts this to a degree. And even highly technophiliac works – including those of the Gernsback era and the Golden Age – often show dangers in new technology. I think that looking for this kind of ambivalence in individual sf works is often a great way to understand them more deeply. At a larger level, I think it’s a key to understanding the genre as a whole.


Your recent works have tended toward the academic and philosophical, is there a fictional outlet that you want to pursue, some idea that you don't believe has received adequate treatment from the field? Or is what we are on the verge of experiencing more immediate or important?

I can’t see myself writing fiction for the foreseeable future, and if I did it would probably be something more for fun and entertainment than something earnestly exploring genetics or Artificial Intelligence, or the like. For example, it would be a lot of fun to write a sequel to The Tempting of the Witch King, or perhaps to “The Sword of God”. Really though, I find that writing fiction and writing non-fiction prose just don’t mix for me. I need to be obsessed with whatever I’m working on at a particular time, and I find that the two different kinds of tasks put me in completely different mental zones. I can imagine working simultaneously on two novels or on two philosophical books, but not some mixture.


What Australian works have you loved recently?

I’ve read a lot of Australian speculative fiction recently in my role as a juror for the Norma K. Hemming Award. I loved many of the books, though some did not seem to be especially relevant to the award. One example of that was Max Barry’s extraordinary thriller Lexicon. The winning book, Nike Sulway’s Rupetta, was superb. I love Jo Spurrier’s sword ‘n’ sorcery work, though her newest book in her current series seemed less on-topic for the award than the first one (where depiction of the life of a wounded and disabled warrior was central). I recommend Janeen Webb’s new collection of her short fiction, Death at the Blue Elephant, which includes some new pieces that are mindblowingly good.


Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?

The short answer to the first question is “not yet” – I suppose my only concern so far is that the ease of self-publishing has put a lot of books of dubious quality on the market, which can undercut high-quality books, especially from academic presses where the marketing strategy involves relatively small print runs and high unit costs. Still, those presses will continue to sell strongly into academic libraries. The problem is probably not so much lost sales as a certain amount of confusion about what books really are reliable, intellectually cutting edge, etc.

I have a list of books that I want to write and/or edit, so if I can maintain my current reputation with some good publishers I’ll be working through that list. These are all non-fiction books, I’m afraid. I’m not currently in the mental zone to be writing fiction. Again, I find the two kinds of writing don’t really mix for me. I would, however, like to get back soon to writing more material that discusses fiction – and narrative and literature in general – in a serious way. These things are important, there’s much to explore, and I miss having the time to write more about that.


RussellDSC03054 Russell Blackford is a philosopher, writer, and literary critic who grew up in Newcastle, where he recently returned after 30 years in Melbourne. He is a Conjoint Lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle. Russell’s most recent books include 50 Great Myths About Atheism (co-authored with Udo Sch√ľklenk; 2013), Humanity Enhanced: Genetic Choice and the Challenge for Liberal Democracies (2014), and Intelligence Unbound: The Future of Uploaded and Machine Minds (co-edited with Damien Broderick; 2014). His fiction and literary criticism have won him a number of national awards, including the William Atheling Jr. Award for Criticism or Review on three occasions. As a creative writer, he is perhaps best known for his award-winning, and frequently reprinted, fantasy story “The Sword of God” (1996) and his tie-in trilogy for the Terminator franchise, Terminator 2: The New John Connor Chronicles (2002-2003).



This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can find other interviews in this series at the links below:

Did you enjoy this post? Would you like to read more? You can subscribe to the blog through a reader, by Email or Follow me on twitter.


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