Australian Speculative Fiction: writers, editors, publishers
Interview by Ben Peek
Chuck McKenzie is currently in the anthology Daikaiju!, edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen. He also wrote the sci-fi comedy novel Worlds Apart.
1) You're been on the scene for a while now, having emerged with the small press novel Worlds Apart in 1999, and you entered with a reputation for humour work. How has that changed, if at all, and how has your outlook on writing altered since then?
Personally, I think the humour in my work has become blacker -- and sometimes virtually non-existent -- over time, which may largely be due to a recent bout of clinical depression. Or maybe the world is just a nastier place than it was when I started getting published.
My outlook on writing in general goes through the same continuous cycle. I begin by feeling horribly guilty that I don't write more, so I churn out stories, send them off, get them published, yada yada. Then I begin to feel guilty that my writing is eating into my precious family time, so I stop. Most recently, I've been in the latter part of the cycle, with the demands of family and work preventing me from writing anything much. Tomorrow, I'll probably be telling myself that this is just an 'excuse' to avoid writing, and to pull my finger out. I'm off to Conflux in a couple of weeks, and hanging around with a bunch of successful writers and editors will finally get the creative juices flowing again. Etcetera...
2) What's your plan nowadays? Do you even have one?
A very flimsy one, and the same one I started with. a) To write stuff that I'd enjoy reading (which is why my stuff often tends towards the frivolous), and b) to write for the buzz of seeing my name in print. Both plans obviously contribute to my continual failure to make any money from writing. But what the fuck.
3) Your honest opinion of the quality of the local scene, it's positives and negatives.
I like the coziness and the sense of camaraderie; ironically, this is also what makes me uncomfortable, as it tends to foster complacency (in me, at least) about selling my next story. So why would I push myself to compete on the international market? I think the local market is like any other market, really: you have gems and you have dross. The question is, are the gems regarded as such outside of the local scene? I think yes, currently, but maybe I'm being complacent again.
4) You're dead. The disco ball was much too large and you should have listened to your wife. Still, dead is dead. You go to Heaven (assuming there is, blah blah, you know the drill) and God is there, waiting. What do you say?
'Do you have any idea of the crap some people are doing in your name? Well why don't you fucking do something about it?' I hope She wasn't expecting me to say something funny...
5) Favourite swear word?
Fuck: concise, punchy, just the thing for screaming out loud or muttering under your breath. I use it far too much, really: in my writing, particularly. My publisher removed something like 65 'fucks' from Worlds Apart. And Robert Hood, bless him, had concerns about my story 'Like A Bug Underfoot', which made it into the Daikaiju! anthology. I was happy to tone it down (he asked very nicely, after all), and I don't think it affects the story negatively. But if you want to know exactly how much toning down was done, read the story and keep in mind that every single mild obscenity in that piece was originally a 'fuck'.
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