Australian Speculative Fiction: writers, editors, publishers
Interview by Ben Peek
Nigel Read writes: "Since this interview was conducted, I have released all stories and artwork related to Superluminal 1 back to the authors/artist, and shelved the anthology. The anthology simply wasn't going to be ready for Thylacon. After having already postponed the launch of the anthology from Swancon to Thylacon, I didn't feel I could continue to hold on to stories that, in some cases, I'd already had for almost 18 months."
1) Superluminal 1 marks your entrance into the Australian field as a publisher and editor in an anthology that is billed as science fiction. There's been some discussion (and Bill Congreve noted it) that science fictions presence in Australia has diminished. Was the urge to do the anthology generated by this absence, or by other reasons?
There's a good reason why the Australian mass market publishers don't publish much science fiction -- virtually every other genre sells better. There's no point in denying it, the readership for science fiction in Australia is small. And yet a small readership isn't no readership. Superluminal 1 is intended to satisfy that small readership. I don't have a fannish interest in science fiction. Of course I read it and enjoy it, but my primary interest is in variety. That should, in my opinion, be the main purpose of the small presses -- to provide the variety that the mass market publishers cannot (or will not).
2) What I find interesting about your anthology, actually, is the number of reprints you're carrying. Out of the 17 stories in your collection, 5 are reprints from names such as Greg Egan, Sean Williams, and Jack Dann. It's an unusual practice to see reprints in original anthologies these days, so what lead you to them?
I'm not sure I can answer that one properly, since I don't fully understand why original fiction should be considered inherently superior to reprint fiction. Why not publish reprints? It brings quality stories to readers who may not have read them before. I'm still reading heaps of old novels and short fiction -- Robert E Howard stories, Philip K Dick novels, Roger Zelazny novels, Wild Cards anthologies, any retrospective anthologies I can lay my hands on...
3) What is your impression of the quality of the fiction being written in the Australian scene, both pro and con?
Ah, the million dollar question! ;)
I don't have a good opinion on the fantasy novels being published by the mass market publishers in Australia. I don't have a bad opinion either. I simply haven't read many of them. With only a few exceptions, they simply haven't appealed to me. Thus, my comments below refer primarily to the other sub-genres of speculative fiction and to short fiction. It seems to me that the best Australian speculative fiction writers still have some ground to make on the best in the US and the UK scenes. And there's an awful lot of absolute crud being written and published. But there's a lot of promising signs too: the emergence of K J Bishop and Margo Lanagan, Cat's Agog! anthologies, the resurgence of author collections... I think the next step is to bring down the fairly artificial barriers separating the Australian speculative fiction scene from the rest of the world. We are too insular, too parochial. This is, in my opinion, holding some very promising writers back. We should be competing with writers from the US and the UK and elsewhere. It's time to stop being content with being a big fish in a little pond. Evolve or die! :)
4) You're dead. The parachute didn't open. The ground didn't move. It was a black plastic trash bag they buried you in. Still, you go to Heaven and you see God. What do you say?
"Err, you know I'm not baptised or circumcised, right?"
5) Favourite swear word?
I tried swearing for a while, but everyone kept laughing at my futile attempts, so I stopped. My characters swear, for the sake of verisimilitude, but I almost never do. Blame my parents.
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