I think a core appeal of the fanzine is that it isn’t transient. Individual episodes of podcasts and blogs in particular feel very ephemeral and disposable. Since each issue of a fanzine is a discrete, concrete object, it feels like is has a bit more weight to it than other media.
I don’t think fanzines are likely to ever go away, but they’re certainly never going to be the predominant form of fan expression ever again. One thing that’s definitely keeping them around is e-publishing: there’s a fantastic resource calledwww.efanzines.com where you can download a regularly updated range of fanzines from the UK, USA, Australia and other countries. Anyone who says “I’ve never read a fanzine, I don’t really get what they’re about” should definitely go download a few and get a better idea.
Maybe editors and publishers are paying attention when it comes to novels, but I don't think so with short stories. Again, I still hope that the story is the important thing there, and not whether you've got a 1,000 followers on twitter. I am on Facebook and Twitter, but I don't really use them as tools to further my writing career. There's nothing worse than being bombarded with messages about some author's latest self-published e-book release on Smashwords. It actually turns me off the thought of reading their stuff, and I'm sure it's the same for a lot of others too. Using social media soley as an advertising tool seems like a very bad idea to me. Using to engage with your readers? Well, that's a totally different thing and I feel that as long as I'm being myself and posting the sort of things I and my readers are interested in then I'm doing the right thing.
Yes, it can sometimes be difficult to balance family commitments with writing commitments, as I’m sure every writer who is also a parent or carer knows. I also work fulltime Monday to Friday; again, I’m sure I am no different to many other writers in this respect. With my husband’s support, I structure writing time where I can squeeze it in around my main priority, which is and always will be my family. It can sometimes take me longer to get things done than it may take others whose situations differ from mine, but that’s life.
I don’t believe social media and/or blogging has played a significant part in the development of my writing career. It can have a role to play (especially when you’ve written just one story and nobody has ever heard of you or of it) but at a certain point that usefulness can become exhausted, and can turn into negativity and distraction. I personally found blogging was sucking up far too much of my time and creative energy – not just writing my own blog, but reading the blogs of others – with far too little pay-off, and so I made a conscious decision to cut that out of my schedule quite some time ago. It freed up a huge amount of time. I’ve replaced it with ventures like Thirteen O’Clock which I feel contribute much greater value to me personally and also to my community. Regardless, I have never identified as a “blogger”. I have always been a writer.
I wouldn’t say writers should “improve” their use of social media (although I will say it sometimes bemuses me that some editors, more so than writers, seem unable to spell or punctuate on social media!). I think they, and everyone else, can use it however they like. It can be an effective promotional tool, but if it’s used solely for that, without at least some personality in between, it becomes ineffective spam. Personally if I want to see promotional material and nothing else, I will visit a publisher’s website (for example). If I want to see the human being behind the words, I’ll look at a writer’s social media, if it’s available. I might then find I don’t much like the writer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t still like their work (or vice versa). I prefer to see people being real people, not automatons. Go on with your bad self and cut loose on your social media. Use naughty words. Have fights. Whatever. At least it’s honest. I don’t really care!
I’ve only been identifying as a SpecFic writer for three years. I’ve only been involved on the fringes of ‘the scene’ and don’t have a long view of its evolution. But the big change that has swept all genres and the publishing industry as a whole is, of course, the rise and rise of e-books. I know writers who are self-publishing, others publishing with traditional publishing houses, others going with indie press from micro to mid levels. The ground under all this is a moving carpet, and adaptability is called for. Interesting times indeed!
I suspect a bit of both. In terms of genre, I go where the story takes me. When I have the initial idea for a book or series, I take note of where it seems to fit in the genre market and think about the conventions of that genre. If some of them work for me, I’ll use them (either with or against the expectations). However, I don’t feel obliged to stick faithfully to the conventions or, indeed, to one genre. I do like to meld genres, which can bring a whole bucket load of problems with it but is a lot of fun to write.
In terms of themes within a novel, I usually find that I may start with an idea of a thematic line – developed from the plot and character – but find that other, stronger themes emerge as I write. Having said that, the thematic starting point is not usually the driving force for me in my writing process – I am more engaged by character and plot and these supply the passion that propel me. So, I don’t feel that I pick stories to write by the appeal of their themes. Still, it is not really possible to separate out those three elements – plot, character, and theme. They are so deeply entwined in the development of my fiction that at least some of each needs to be in place before I start writing.
I can’t really claim to have my finger on the pulse of the beating heart that is Aussie spec fic because these days I’m more a truant or vagabond than an ongoing genre contributor locked into dynamic dialogue with the zeitgeist. I haven’t been keeping in touch with the scene at all, and of late there have certainly been many anthologies I’ve not contributed to or even been aware of (and I rue that fact), so I can really only answer this question with one eye open. I write less than one short story a year, and hope to place it well, so was thrilled to get into AbE with a freight train of great writers. AbE is an exciting read with some truly wonderful stories, yet I was surprised by the lack of online buzz it generated and wanted it to achieve a larger presence, including more reviews and some discussion on what the antho had to offer and how it dealt with the theme. On the other hand, the genre itself formally supported AbE with AA nominees and a winner. And as far as the future goes, I would like to see more anthos.
But thanks for asking how Space Girl Blues came about. I grew up in green-belt suburban Eltham among sylvan trees and dams, where Don’s Party was over and the children of those mud-bricked hippies grew up to be football hooligans or fist-fodder. My high school was staunchly proud of its statistically aberrant processed white-breddedness. My older brother fled Beer-Garden Australia and mailed care packages back from London that contained all kinds of cultural oddities for those remaining behind enemy lines, including music from another planet; some strange band from Akron Ohio that couldn’t get a deal anywhere had found an indie label in London to press limited runs of post-punk new wave 45s. One of these was a song from 1978 called Automodown about the Kent State massacre, and sandwiched behind this with no pregap was an unlabelled two minute add-on called Space Girl Blues with offworld lyrics and theraminesque riffs that made me know my teenage brain was buttered on the sci fi side. This song stayed with me, engendered a ferment that I knew one day would write itself a story. The internet allows you to mine, commodify and recolonise your past with the methodical relentlessness of BHP, the pedantry of a trainspotter, and I now have over 49 of their albums, demos, outtakes, alternate versions
Clarion South was wonderful, and I left ultra-positive, enthusiastic, and with a feeling that things would move a touch quicker than have. Its ironic that Clarion South is now a fictional world in itself, the intensity, the workload, the think-tank environment; and as I boldly tread through a brave new world of used nappies, bills and play-lunches the memories of that wonderful time crystallise into hallowed things of legend from an Eden lost and gone. Clarion South generates Australian culture. It had a major impact on my life, helping to clarify my goals and aspirations with surety. I don’t really have a ‘career’ as a writer yet, its more an MO for a few short bodies of genre bladework, but many writers from CS have carved niches as short story writers, while others have gone on to become successful novelists. I hope to join the latter and have my novel out shortly. Don’t ask what shortly means.
And so endeth the lesson.
I hope you've enjoyed reading these summaries and indeed the full interviews! I've certainly found it fascinating to tease out the themes and conversations, and look forward to reading them again at more leisure later.
See some of you at the con! If I've missed any interviews, let me know and I'll do a catch up post later.