2016 Snapshot – Alisa Krasnostein

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alisaAlisa Krasnostein is an award winning editor and publisher at independent Twelfth Planet Press, a creative publishing PhD student and recently retired environmental engineer. She is also part of the Hugo award winning Galactic Suburbia Podcast team. In 2011, she won the World Fantasy Award for her work at Twelfth Planet Press. She was the Executive Editor and founder of the review website Aussie Specfic in Focus! from 2004 to 2012. In her spare time she is a critic, reader, reviewer, podcaster, runner, environmentalist, knitter, quilter and puppy lover. And full time mum.
1. You are part of the multi-award winning podcast Galactic Suburbia – in recent times you’ve joined Patreon and last year broadcast another live episode at Continuum… what else is on the cards for Galactic Suburbia, and what other avenues would you like to see the podcast branch out into? Would your answer be different if money and time weren’t an issue?

More of the same is our schedule for the moment. There’s so much still to talk about and dissect. Our listeners love the spoilerific episodes so we’ve been trying to work on bringing a few more of those out a year. Personally, I’d love the chance for us to record more live episodes. Sadly though I’m not sure that’s on the cards for the near future.

LetterstoTiptree2. Last year in August, in celebration of the 100th anniversary of Alice Sheldon’s birth – Alexandra Pierce and yourself brought out an anthology titled Letters to Tiptree which is currently appearing on shortlists all around the world. What’s something you discovered whilst doing this project, that’s either the most interesting to you or the most surprising?

There were so many highlights for me working on this book. I loved discovering how great it is to co-edit with Alex. I loved delving into Sheldon’s and Tiptree’s letters and immersing myself in Julie Phillips’ bio of Sheldon/Tiptree. She’s just the most fascinating person. And I was equally fascinated with how intimate some of her letters were, particularly to Joanna Russ. I don’t think I would want my personal letters archived for just anyone to come along and read afterwards. Even long after I’m dead. I was also surprised to find out just how hard a non fiction book is to edit. I found it far more challenging or maybe just a completely new learning curve. This book involved working with more than 50 people and it was pretty frenetic at times. And completely exhilarating. We got the chance to meet and work with really amazing people and that’s always thrilling.

3. Can you give us any hints about a work that may be in current planning stages, but isn’t yet announced? Maybe something that’s a little like Letters to Tiptree?

I’ve wanted to have a nonfiction line at Twelfth Planet Press for quite some time now. I’m pretty excited that we’ve finally started to publish nonfiction and we do have some more titles in the works, currently not yet announced. I can’t say more than that really but we are working on something to follow up Letters to Tiptree. And I’m very excited watching the co-editors start to develop it.

Defying-Doomsday weightless4. What Australian work have you loved recently?

Defying Doomsday. Holly and Tsana completely delivered on their remit for this project – to present a diverse array of empowering stories with protagonist with disabilities or illnesses. It’s an amazingly uplifting anthology despite being stories in apocalyptic settings. And the Australian authors featured also wrote some of my favourites in this book. I’m truly proud and privileged to have been able to publish this book and work with these two editors.
I’m also going to give a shout out to Angela Slatter – her debut novel Vigil is currently on my nightstand and I’m enjoying getting stuck into it.

5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I think I’d have to say James Tiptree Jr. I still have so many unanswered questions and I’d love to be able to just bask in Sheldon’s vicinity and observe her mind in action. I think someone who wrote those stories would be thoroughly fascinating to just chat with and get to expand some of the ideas to a more overall worldview.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2016 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 August to 14 August and archiving them at our Snapshot headquarters

2016 Snapshot – Joanne Anderton

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Joanne Anderton is an award-winning author of speculative fiction stories for adults, young adults, and anyone who likes their worlds a little different. She sprinkles a pinch of science fiction to spice up her fantasy, and thinks horror adds flavour to just about everything. Her science fiction/fantasy novels have been published by Angry Robot Books and Fablecroft Publishing. Her short story collection, The Bone Chime Song and Other Stories, was published by Fablecroft Publishing. It won the Aurealis Award for best collection, and the Australian Shadows Award for best collected work. You can find her online at joanneanderton.com

I’ve heard whispers that you’re currently working on something that will take us by surprise – what can you tell us about it? 

My forthcoming work is a bit different from the norm! It’s an illustrated book for kids, and it’s not even genre. It’s called The Flying Optometrist, and is being published by the National Library of Australia next year. I’m so excited about this one! It will be illustrated by the amazing Karen Erasmus (you can check out her facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/KarenErasmusIllustration/) and I feel incredibly lucky, because her artwork is gorgeous.

The Flying Optometrist is inspired by my dad who, in his “retirement”, flies to remote outback areas in the little red plane that he built (yep) to help provide eye health care to people who otherwise wouldn’t receive it. He’s not the only optometrist to do so, thanks to the visiting optometrist scheme, but he’s the only one with the little red plane! Rural healthcare is a real passion for him. I went out with him on one of his trips to Wanaaring to research the book, and I can see why. I’d be lost without access to glasses, and I can just go down the road and find any number of optometrists vying for my business. But if you live in a remote location you don’t have that luxury! There are people all around the world, and in this country, who are blind simply because they don’t have access to glasses.

You can see some of that passion has rubbed off on me. I’ve learned a lot researching for this book, and I still think an optometrist who arrives in his little red plane to test your vision is cool. I’m super excited about this project!

 

‘Bullets’, your short story from ‘In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep’, won the 2015 Aurealis Award for best horror short story. Where did this story come from, and what can you tell us about it? (Some say it’s quite dark?)

Yep, it’s just that little bit dark… Surely you’re not surprised? I think of Bullets as a kind of a dark, Australian fairytale. It was an idea I had rattling around in my head for a while, and writing for In Sunshine Bright and Darkness Deep finally helped me give it form. I was so surprised and thrilled when in won the Aurealis Award!

The idea came from an article I read about the aftermath of a bushfire, and the farmers who had to search the decimated landscape putting down their stock or wildlife who have been horribly injured in fire. In the article, one of these farmers talked about running out of bullets. I thought that was such a powerful and horrible image, and one tied closely to the Australian experience and our relationship with the landscape. Tie that in with a bit of shape shifting, some dark magic, loneliness and isolation, and you have Bullets.

 

 What’s something you’re working on currently, and what do you have coming out in the future? The last time we spoke, you were telling us something about another series involving dragons, the Aussie outback, and the royal flying doctor’s service?

For forthcoming see question 1 :)

Things are still a bit slow going for me. If anyone has any tips about writing books while working full time, I’d love to hear them! This year on the writing front my goal is to establish a new routine — a realistic one — so I can write consistently and not suffer from writers guilt and/or exhaustion. Wish me luck with that :)

But yes, the RFDS with dragons is still on my list of books to work on! Close to the top of the list, even.

 

What Australian work have you loved recently?

I really enjoyed Zeroes by Scott Westerfeld, Margo Lanagan and Deborah Biancotti. I just finished reading How to be a Writer (who smashes deadline, crushes editors and lives in a solid gold hovercraft) by John Birmingham, which was great fun! Currently on my bedside table is Vigil, by Angela Slatter and Summer of Monsters by Tony Thompson. I CANNOT WAIT for Thoraiya Dyer’s Crossroads of Canopy. And I’ve had a bit of a sneak peak at Cat Spark’s forthcoming Lotus Blue (it is so awesome!)

 

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

Haha this is an impossible question, because I know so many amazing writers and I want to sit next to all of them on the plane. Really, right now that’s what I’d like the most. Except, maybe not on a plane. Could we be having drinks instead?

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2016 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 August to 14 August and archiving them at our Snapshot headquarters

2016 Snapshot – Scott Westerfeld

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photo by Anna Fischer, 2014

photo by Anna Fischer, 2014

Scott Westerfeld is the author of eighteen novels (five are for adults, and the other thirteen for young adults), including the New York Times-bestselling Uglies and Leviathan series. Scott is one third of the writing trio of Zeroes, with the second book due out in Australia in September. Find Scott online at http://scottwesterfeld.com/

1. Everyone’s talking about the series Zeroes, that you’re co-writing with Deborah Biancotti and Margo Lanagan. The second book, Swarm, is due to come out September this year. One of the biggest talking points from your fans is trying to work out who’s responsible for which parts, or which characters. Can you give us any hints at all, or can you say a part that you wish you wrote? Or can you tell us about a scene that was cut that you really enjoy?

One of the great things about collaboration is that there are lots of scenes that I never would written myself, including scenes that feature my own characters. Having three writers pushes every aspect of the novel in strange ways. No clues there, but here’s what I can say: If I had written Zeroes alone, one or two characters would have been the star. But the balanced look into all six of them comes from the fact that every character has a full-time advocate.

afterworlds2. Afterworlds was a novel that captured the hopes and dreams of many budding and emerging authors, showing us Darcy who gets a book deal, delays college and moves to New York to pursue her dreams – I certainly wanted to be there with her, eating cheap noodles! Is there any chance of bringing out the novel-within-a-novel that we see in this book (the one Darcy is writing), or a companion piece? (And what’s the go with the non-fiction How to Write YA we heard about?) 

The novel-within-the-novel is pretty much complete within that book. (There are 75,000 words of it included!) The only sequel I’ve thought about doing is more of Darcy’s story. There’s a very committed group of people working on an Afterworlds movie, and I think it would be fun to write a novel in which Darcy’s book is being made into a movie, letting my experiences on set, etc., stand in for hers. (And yes, How to Write YA is still in the works. Not sure when it will come out, though.)

ZeroesSwarm3. With Swarm out this year, and the third Zeroes book due out in 2017 you have a few things on your plate at the moment, but do you have any other projects in the works at the moment and what can you tell us about them?  

I have a graphic novel called Spill Zone that comes out in May 2017. It’s about a young outlaw artist who rides her motorcycle into a walled-off alien invasion site to take photographs, which she sells to wealthy underground collectors. The hero also has a younger sister who survived the night of the invasion, who has a creepy talking doll that is kind of possessed by an alien intelligence. (Well, not really aliens, something much worse.) The pages will start to go online in October 2016 (check my website), and the series will have two books, both drawn by the amazing Alex Puvilland.

4. What Australian work have you loved recently?

I’m sure everyone’s heard of Illuminae, which is the bomb. Lily Wilkinson’s The Boundless Sublime just came out. It’s a compelling account of a young, grief-stricken girl drawn into a cult, based on tons of research and real-world cases, which makes you realise: There’s nothing quiet as strange as real people.

5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

I have sat next to Justine Larbalestier on many long plane trips, and to Garth Nix on one train trip, so I shall disqualify them. So I’ll go with Holly Black, whose plot-doctoring skills I have often sought out. Also we were by coincidence on a plane across the Atlantic together (with Cassie Clare), but were many rows apart, which seems like a missed opportunity.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2016 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 August to 14 August and archiving them at our Snapshot headquarters

2016 Snapshot – Alison Goodman

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Alison Goodman’s latest novel is Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club, a delicious mix of Regency adventure and dark fantasy. The second in the series, Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact, is due out December 2016. She is the author of four other books including EON and EONA, a New York Times bestselling fantasy duology. Alison has won the Aurealis award for Best Fantasy Novel (EON) and for Best Young Adult novel (Singing the Dogstar Blues), and was the D.J. O’Hearn Memorial Fellow at the University of Melbourne. She is currently writing the third novel in The Lady Helen series.

Visit Alison’s website at www.darkdaysclub.com

Twitter: @Alison Goodman

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Club Your current series, Lady Helen, has the second book ‘The Dark Days Pact’ currently due in December 2016. The first book, The Dark Days Club has been successful with the regency aspect making it so hard to put down. What can we expect to see in the second book, and what have you been using for inspiration?

Lady Helen and the Dark Days Pact hits the ground running. It is July 1812 and Lady Helen and her Dark Days Club comrades are at Brighton during the summer social season. Helen is trying to overcome her genteel upbringing to become a warrior in order to face the Grand Deceiver, while Lord Carlston struggles to overcome the growing darkness in his soul that threatens his sanity. Mr Pike, the hard bureaucratic heart of the secret Dark Days Club, arrives at the sunny seaside town with a mission for Helen that she cannot refuse – a dangerous task that will force her to betray her friends and possibly bring about the annihilation of Lord Carlston.

So, another fun-filled social season for Lady Helen, full of promenades, dancing, and deadly demon hunting!

The inspiration for the series comes from my love of Jane Austen, Georgette Heyer and Buffy (in her demon slaying mode—no vampires in my Regency England). When I was developing the idea of the Lady Helen books, I asked myself what kind of Regency novel would I want to read? The answer was a Regency supernatural adventure with a dash of dashing romance that was also historically accurate. Lady Helen is a woman of her time, not a modern woman dumped into a drawing room, and her dilemmas are created by the constraints of her society and her place in it. I researched the Regency for over 8 months full-time before I started writing the first book and I’m constantly researching as I go along. My workspace is full of newspapers from 1812, diaries from the period, ladies magazines, and history books that delve into all aspects of Regency life. Everything I read from and about the era inspires me and I love trawling the web for paintings and illustrations from the 1800’s. I am also inspired by the many film and TV adaptations of the Austen books, history documentaries, and anything by Joss Whedon for his delicious mix of adventure, drama and beautifully timed comedy.

DarkDaysClubIt’s sometimes rare that we get a duology in the fantasy genre. Eon and Eona (also titled under Two Pearls of Wisdom and The Necklace of the Gods) are such that work perfectly. Was this always the plan for these characters, or do you have future ideas for the world in general?

From the beginning, the Eona series was always set up as a duology to follow the transformation of the main character. Frankly, at the time, it was also easier to sell a duology to a publisher than a trilogy. Having said that, I also knew that the world and the characters could expand out into more books if I wanted to follow that road. Eona, the second book, was published in 2011 and it is only recently that I have developed a storyline that I think is strong enough to follow those initial two books. So there is now a good chance that there will be a third Eona book.

 What’s something that you’re currently excited about? Is it something you’re working currently, and/or something else in the speculative fiction community that you want everyone to know about?

I’ve recently been having a ball writing a rollicking Regency adventure called The Benevolent Society of Ill Mannered Ladies for a collection called And then…the Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales that Clan Destine Press will be publishing digitally later this year. I’m also deep into writing the third Lady Helen book and having a wonderful time recreating 1812 Bath in winter with all its Christmas (and demonic) delights.

 Lady_Helen_final-2What Australian work have you loved recently?

Who’s Afraid? by Maria Lewis, a wonderful modern werewolf tale. The Big Smoke, by Jason Nahrung, which is Book 2 in a brilliant vampire series set in contemporary Queensland. I’ve also been lucky enough to get an advance copy of The Book of Whispers, by Kimberley Starr, which recently won the Text manuscript prize and brings together the Crusades and demons.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why? 

I’d like to sit in a middle seat so that on one side I would have Blake Snyder (now sadly deceased), the writer of the excellent “Save the Cat” scriptwriting books so that we can discuss the finer points of story construction. Seated on the other side, I would like Stephen Fry, because…well, Stephen Fry! Plus he is also a big Georgette Heyer fan and we can natter about reticules, daffy clubs, and bang up coves.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2016 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 August to 14 August and archiving them at our Snapshot headquarters

2016 Snapshot – DK Mok

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DK Mok is a fantasy and science fiction author whose novels include Squid’s Grief, Hunt for Valamon and The Other Tree. DK has been shortlisted for three Aurealis Awards, a Ditmar, and a Washington Science Fiction Association Small Press Award. DK graduated from UNSW with a degree in Psychology, pursuing her interests in both social justice and scientist humour. DK lives in Sydney, Australia, and her favourite fossil deposit is the Burgess Shale. Connect on Twitter @dk_mok or find out more at www.dkmok.com.

Squid's-Grief-Cover-Sm1. Squid’s Grief is both an excellent title, and features such an amazing main character who is basically having the worst week of her life. Will we get to see more of Squid in the future, and see how things turn out with her pal Grief?

Thanks! I love cephalopods, wordplay and unusual names, so the stars aligned nicely for the title. I drew deeply on stylised noir for this book, particularly from the stories that had an impact on me during my teen years, like Ridley Scott’s Blade Runner, Mamoru Oshii’s 1995 Ghost in the Shell, and Raymond Chandler’s Philip Marlowe detective novels. I’ve always loved the sharp, wry banter, and the intriguing, silty underworlds inhabited by people with names like Bruiser and Kneecaps. Or Squid and Grief.

Ah yes, poor Squid. She has a bit of a tough time in this story, but she also has some pretty amazing moments. Often, it’s in our darkest times that we learn our true nature, and I believe that we’re defined in many ways by the choices we make when between a rock and hard place: whether we stay silent and keep our heads down, or stand up, speak out, and fight for the things that matter to us.

While no one wishes for a troubled life, it’s sometimes the challenges we face that teach us gratitude, empathy and resilience. Yes, it’s a hell of a ride for Squid, but there are moments of beauty and kindness along the way. And jam rolls.

I don’t have any current plans for a sequel to Squid’s Grief – there’s an unruly procession of other stories demanding to be written first. That said, I always have ideas kicking around, so you never know.

 

In-Memory-Cover-Yellow-Sm2. You have a piece titled ‘The Heart of the Labyrinth’ in a tribute anthology to Sir Terry Pratchett. What is your piece about, and what does Pratchett mean to you?

Oh, Sir Terry.

Much of who I am today, as a writer and as a person, is due to the wonderful work of Sir Terry Pratchett. I discovered his books in high school and was swept away by his wildly imaginative worlds and the strange and endearing characters who inhabited them. His books eased me through difficult times, and I found solace in the humour, and sanctuary in the fantasy. And then, of course, there was the rage.

In the foreword to Sir Terry’s collection of essays, A Slip of the Keyboard, Neil Gaiman paints a picture of a man in possession of not only great wit, charm and intelligence, but also great passion and ferocity. He speaks of the rage that fuelled Pratchett’s stories: rage against ignorance, bigotry and corruption. Pratchett’s stories had heart, but his satire had teeth. His fanciful tales of wizards and vampires were also powerful allegories exploring issues of diversity, equality, integrity, and the importance of not remaining silent in the face of injustice. Over the course of twenty years and fifty books, he taught me that you could tell stories that were whimsical and uplifting, but also purposeful and powerful. Ultimately, for me, his stories were about courage and kindness.

In early 2015, Sir Terry passed away from early-onset Alzheimer’s disease. Like many others, I struggled to imagine a world without his wit and wisdom and generosity, and like many others, I grieved in my own quiet way. Some weeks afterwards, I came across a call for submissions; an anthology was seeking short stories for In Memory: A Tribute to Sir Terry Pratchett. All proceeds would go to one of Sir Terry’s favourite charities, Alzheimer’s Research UK.

I had to be in it. I was frantic – the deadline for pitches was only days away; I’d never pitched to an anthology without having a story already written. But I had to be in it. Over the next few days, I desperately rattled my brain. I scribbled and scrunched and fretted and paced, and as I walked brooding circuits of my neighbourhood, my thoughts turned to a podcast I’d listened to once, an episode of Off Track with Ann Jones. In it, she and her guest spoke about walking meditation and told the tale of how the Centennial Park Labyrinth in Sydney came to be. And so, I had the spark of my story.

“The Heart of the Labyrinth” is an epic fantasy adventure about a beast known only as the Devourer. He dwells in an ancient labyrinth, with no recollection of who he is or how he came to be there, although he suspects that long ago he bore another name. He’s sick of eating adventurers, so when a young woman arrives and declares she’s here to rescue him, the Devourer persuades her to join him on a search for his forgotten past.

The originating editor of the anthology, Sorin Suciu, describes In Memory as “a rebellion against the act of mourning”. And, in some respects, this project was a collective act of grief and remembrance. For me, it’s as true now as it was then: there is solace in humour, and sanctuary in fantasy. And there is comfort in sharing your grief with others, and saying, “This. This is what he meant to me.”

And so, my story is about memory, identity and redemption. It’s about humour and rage, courage and kindness.

“The Heart of the Labyrinth” is my way of saying “goodbye” to Sir Terry: a wonderful author and humanist whose legacy lives on in the countless people he touched through his work. All those hearts he helped to heal through laughter. All those minds he helped spark through his conviction.

Sir Terry’s stories inspired me to be braver, kinder and wiser than I was, and this story is my quiet tip of the hat to a man who will be deeply missed.

 

3. What can we expect from you in the near future?

I always have several projects ambling about in various states of development and disassembly. I’m in the early stages of a new epic fantasy trilogy, but it’s turning into a far more complicated project than anticipated. There are pages of family trees, maps, regional glossaries and magical arithmetic swamping my desk at the moment, but I’m excited to see if I can wrestle these into the sprawling story I want to tell.

After that, I have another science fiction novel planned – this time with actual cephalopods in it. I’m very keen to write this one, but the story is still coalescing into shape.

In the meanwhile, I’m usually tinkering with a few short stories. Any excuse to play with pensive robots and enchanted labyrinths.

 

4. What Australian work have you loved recently?

I’m very behind on my TBR list, but having an overabundance of good books to read is a nice problem to have.

Shaun Tan is one of my favourite authors/artists, and I’ve just finished reading his latest book, The Singing Bones (Allen & Unwin). It’s a haunting collection of artworks inspired by the fairy tales of the brothers Grimm. Stylised, hand-crafted figurines of clay and sand and string are photographed in strikingly stark dioramas, and each image perfectly captures both the fanciful and gruesome aspects of the tale it accompanies. As a side note, I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll continue to say it at every opportunity: Tan’s The Rabbits (written by John Marsden) and The Arrival should be compulsory reading for everyone.

I’ve just started reading Defying Doomsday (Twelfth Planet Press), edited by Tsana Dolichva and Holly Kench. This anthology of apocalypse fiction features protagonists with chronic illnesses and disabilities, and it’s great to see more speculative fiction exploring issues of diversity, inclusiveness and accessibility.

I’m looking forward to Mitchell Hogan’s A Shattered Empire, due out later this year from Harper Voyager. It’s the third book in the Sorcery Ascendant Sequence, an epic fantasy, coming-of-age story with a fascinating magic-system. It makes me wish that our world had enchanted origami.

I’ve loved Graeme Base’s picture books ever since I plunged into the intriguing and whimsical worlds of Animalia and The Eleventh Hour as a child. Every new book is still a delight, and his recent release, Eye to Eye (Penguin Australia), is another gorgeously illustrated journey through pristine mountains and luminous seas, full of secretive snow leopards and excitable octopuses.

I’d also like to give a shout-out to my lovely sister, Anne Mok, whose debut novella, Tower of the Ice Lord, came out last year through Dreamspinner Press.

 

 5. Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

He’s not best known for his books, but I’d love the opportunity to chat with Sir David Attenborough. I’ve always adored his documentaries, and in high school, I read as many of his natural history books as I could find: Life on Earth, The Living Planet, The Trials of Life and more. His memoir, Life on Air, is still one of my favourite books. To me, his tales of vibrant jungles and elusive islands were as fantastical as the realms of Narnia or Middle-earth.

I’ve always admired the clarity and accessibility of his writing: a conversational style that brims with intelligence and insight, warmth and wonder. I had the good fortune to hear Sir David speak at the State Theatre in Sydney many years ago and found him to be a masterful storyteller. He captivated the audience with his eloquence, charm and good humour, and his passion for the natural world and all its marvels was absolutely electric.

A great deal of my writing is still informed by my love of science and natural history, and Sir David’s books and documentaries have played a significant role in fuelling those interests. I suspect his charming company and fascinating anecdotes could make a long flight pass by in a blur of lush corals, magnificent quetzals and curious whale sharks.

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This interview was conducted as part of the 2016 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 August to 14 August and archiving them at our Snapshot headquarters