Since his first publication in Aurealis back in 1992, Perth-based writer Martin Livings has had over fifty short stories published in a variety of magazines and anthologies. His short works have been listed in the Recommended Reading list in Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror, and he has had stories in The Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy, Volume Two and the 2006 and 2008 editions of Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror. His first novel, the horror thriller Carnies, was published by Hachette Livre in 2006, and was nominated for both the Aurealis and Ditmar awards. It’s still available for purchase at a bargain-bin price, signed and posted anywhere in the world, through his website, http://www.martinlivings.com. Sorry, disengaging shameless-plug-mode now…
1. Last year you had a story in the Twelfth Planet Press anthology New Ceres Nights ("Blessed are the dead that the rain falls upon"). How did you find the experience of working on a shared world? Is it easier or harder than working on a stand alone stories or within lessconstrained anthology themes?
My story for New Ceres Nights had a very strange genesis. I was asked if I’d like to contribute a story for it, and, of course, I immediately said yes. I quickly read all of the existing New Ceres stories, but as the deadline grew closer, I still had no ideas. So in the end, about a week away from the final deadline, I emailed and admitted that I had nothing for them. Of course, almost the moment I sent the email, the idea for "Blessed are the Dead" came to me, pretty much fully formed. I wrote a first draft in a single sitting, and absolutely loved doing it.
I actually found writing in the New Ceres universe strangely liberating, as I didn’t have to do much worldbuilding, leaving me free to focus on the story I wanted to tell. To be frank, I don’t think I’m actually terribly imaginative, and I’m definitely not naturally prolific, so I find having something like this to spark ideas really helpful to get me moving. I’ve probably been mainly writing for themed anthologies lately for that exact reason, to keep myself inspired. I guess it’s also the genesis of Tuesday’s Ten Minute Tales, my on-again-off-again weekly speed-written story inspired by suggestions from readers (plug plug, see http://martinlivings.livejournal.com/tag/tuesday%27s%20ten%20minute%20tale, plug plug!).
2. What else would we have seen from Martin Livings since the last Snapshot? What are you most proud of?
When was the last Snapshot again? 2007? Well, I’ve been quite a busy bee with short stories since then, though until this moment I didn’t realise quite /how/ busy, looking at the list. I’ve been trying to push the boundaries of what I do, write in different ways and styles a little. "I’m Dreaming…", published late last year in Festive Fear from Tasmaniac Publications, is one of my favourites, a nasty little horror story where everything is either implied or disguised as something else entirely. It’s not often that I lose sleep over one of my own stories, but that one really got under my skin. My partner actually point-blank refuses to read it, so that’s got to be a win!
I’ve also had a couple of stories that were received really well, like "Skinsongs", in Twelfth Planet’s 2012 anthology, and "Piggies" in Midnight Echo Issue 1, and a few that I was really proud of but that largely came and went without a ripple, like "Blessed are the Dead" in New Ceres Nights, "Smiley" in In Bad Dreams 2 from Eneit Press, and "Bedbugs" in Morrigan Books’ Voices. That’s always a bit disappointing, but it doesn’t dent my pride in those stories, and all the others I’ve had out as well of course. They’re my kids, out in the big bad world, and I wish the best for them all… though would it kill them to pick up a phone every once in a while???
3. And what have you been working on lately? What’s forthcoming in the next year or two?
I already have a bunch of stories coming up, which offers a nice bit of breathing space! I’ve got a story in the lovely Jennifer Brozek’s collection coming out this year from Apex, Close Encounters of the Urban Kind, called "Lollo". This is technically my first overseas-only publication, which is fantastic, though it’s only taken me twenty years to manage! But I’m really hoping this one gets some attention, as I love the story to bits. And it creeped me out, which I figure is a pretty good litmus test for a scary story! Then, just to stretch my range a tad, I have stories coming up in Ticonderoga Publications’ paranormal romance anthology Scary Kisses and your speculative fiction for younger readers book Worlds Next Door, and what is possibly an entirely non-genre piece for Morrigan Books’ Scenes from the Second Storey. And I’m keeping the horror alive, of course, with a story in the inaugural Blade Red Dark Pages and, hopefully sometime, another in the long-gestating Macabre project from Brimstone Press.
Apart from that, and a couple more short story projects I’m playing around with… well, I suppose I really should get around to dusting off the novel drafts in various stages of completion that I have languishing in my bottom drawer, perhaps try to get another book out where I don’t have to share the contents pages with all these (very fine) young whippersnappers!
4. Which Australian writers or work would you like to see on the Hugo shortlists this year?
I know we’re all sounding like broken records at the moment, but I think the planets are definitely aligning for Paul Haines, having his superlative Slice of Life collection out, plus his brillantly bleak (or bleakly brilliant, I’m not sure which) novella "Wives" in coeur de lion’s X6 innovative ‘novellanthology’. It’s almost the perfect storm of top-quality work, lots of positive buzz and the opportunity of a local Worldcon.
And if Jonathan Strahan doesn’t pick up a shortlisting for one or more of the, what, four hundred or so anthologies he edited last year, I’ll go and write a story involving fairies and cats. Oh, hang on, I’m working on one of them right now…
5. Will you be at Aussiecon 4 in September? If so, what are you most looking forward to about it? What do you think Aussiecon might do for the Australian publishing industry as a whole?
I’m definitely going to Aussiecon in September, I have my hotel room, my flights, my membership, everything. This will be my first Australian convention outside of WA (ironically, I have been to one convention in Glasgow in 2006, but never an Aussie one except in Perth), so I have absolutely no idea what to expect. There are a lot of people in my various social networking lists that I’m hoping to meet for the first time, though. And I’ll have a suitcase full of copies of Carnies, so hopefully I’ll be able to press them into the hands of some poor unsuspecting souls who haven’t seen it yet!
As for the Australian publishing industry as a whole… frankly, I have no idea whatsoever. I guess it could inspire another local SF boom, but then again, looking around, I think we’re in the middle of one of those as we speak anyway. My main hope is that it might bring some great Aussie writers, editors and publishers to the attention of the wider world of speculative fiction, get the rest of fandom as excited about them as we are already. That would be the perfect outcome, in my books.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2010 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from Monday 15 February to Sunday 22 February and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: