Dave Luckett has written three junior novels for the Omnibus Ripper range: The Adventures of Addam; The Best Batsman in the World and The Last Eleven and two Shorts: Night Hunters and The Wizard and Me.
The first book in his Tenebran Trilogy, A Dark Winter was released to much acclaim in April 1998, and was shortlisted for the 1999 West Australian Premier’s Award. The second book in the Tenebran Trilogy, A Dark Journey was released in February 1999. A Dark Victory, book three in the trilogy, was released later that year.
Rhianna and the Wild Magic and Rhianna and the Dogs of Iron are among Dave’s recent Scholastic releases for children, and his 2010 book, Paladin, is a great time/world slip novel for younger teens. His most recent short story appears in Epilogue, from FableCroft Publishing.
1. Your career has seen you working in many areas, from science fiction short stories through novels aimed at young people to non-fiction and more. Do you have one true passion, or is writing itself the main attraction?
What I refer to as my career (and thank you for not laughing too loud when you asked that) consists of writing whatever I get asked to write, plus a punt or two (usually not published) at what I like to write. What I like to write consists of whatever I’m interested in. History, certainly, and I do get to write historicals under a pseudonym. Technology, yes, but mostly its effects, not its gosh-wow factor. What would happen if? What would have happened if? The latter is where you get alternative history, contrafactuals, and parallel worlds from. I’ve always loved hard SF. Some military in tone, but real military, not column of mob and charge the enemy, men, hooray. I also like detective stories. I like romances. I can’t for the life of me see what’s wrong with writing all of them at once. Why not?
I’d tell you why not, but that would involve a long and increasingly boring diatribe about how publishers think everything is a hermetically-sealed little genre, never to be contaminated with another. Out upon them, say I.
I’d like to write more hard SF, but I really don’t like bleak dystopias, and I find psychopaths rather uninteresting and unamusing. My stuff tends to be more golden-age in tone, seeing technology as an answer as well as a problem. I hate horror. Yes, yes, I know that’s not allowed. I still hate horror. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone wants to induce it artificially, in themselves or anyone else. God knows simple contemplation of the fact that I’m over sixty horrifies me sufficiently, without my going looking for more.
What I’d really like to do with my writing is to put back into fandom what I took out of it. I’d like it to be as generous and as genuine as fandom was and is to me.
2. Your work has been published by mainstream “big name” publishers, small presses, and you have self-published as well. Can you tell us a little about the different processes, and if there are any pitfalls new writers should be aware of?
Mainstream publishing is as chancy an operation as exists in this Universe. Nobody in that game has the slightest idea of what goes, beyond a certain threshhold of basic acceptability. Agents, editors, publishers, they haven’t a clue, and they only listen to each other. I certainly haven’t one, either, but at least nobody listens to me at all, and they certainly don’t pay me for making predictions that have a success rate which differs from chance only in a good light and if you squint just right.
All anyone can do is write and send it out. Sure, sure, make it as good as you can. But you have to know – know to the marrow of your bones – that what happens to it then is completely in the lap of the gods, and has nothing to do with you. Wonderful stories in brilliant prose can and do get drop-punted into the nearest receptacle because some assistant editor’s third secretary doesn’t like golden retrievers or spaceships, or because it’s nearly lunchtime. Dreck gets published with large fanfare, takes fire, runs screaming down the street and suddenly every honcho in the industry is on the horn offering six figures for something that’s exactly the same, only completely different. Shrug and write something else. It’s all you can do.
Small press is viable as a career option, remembering that in Australia practically everything is small press, by world standards. US “small press” can go runs of 30 thousand. Even Canada or UK small press is more substantial than most of our straight publishing. But why not try it? I like the genuine love that the small presses bring. They actually care about what they do.
Self-publishing is subversive, which is delightful. I’ve only self-published in print once, and that was purely for vanity. But I’m now starting to use Amazon kindle e-publishing. There’s a lot not to like about them, but at the moment they’re the only game in town. I think that’s where the future lies, though, especially in Australia. Certainly there’s much to be said for print, and people will still want their favourites in quality editions; but the average read-once paperback is going to go electronic, no matter how much the publishers writhe, scream, kick and fight it every millimetre of the way. There is simply no chance that they can go on much longer kidding themselves and everyone else that electronic editing, importing stock images and the transport of dead trees are between them worth nine times what the author gets.
Pitfalls? Shonky agents and shonky vanity operations. I recently saw a sad lady who’d been taken for her savings. Always be suspicious of any outfit that says they’re a “traditional publisher”. There are no traditional publishers. There are publishers and there are operations that’ll say they are while they take your money. No genuine agent, bar none, demands either a “reading fee” or advertises for clients except by personal approach. Never, never pay an agent or a publisher anything. If you pay, you’re being scammed. That includes “assessment fees”, “cover art”, “publicity fees”, “editing costs”, “distribution”, anything whatsoever. It also includes being pressured or requested to buy your own book. All genuine publishing arrangements state a payment or an advance, however small, and a royalty. Both are up-front, and neither depend on sales. The advance is against royalties, and that’s legitimate – but it’s non-refundable.
If you want to self publish, sure, go ahead. There are good, reputable operations – basically printers with extra services – who’ll give you a competitive price for whatever you want and tell you exactly what you’re buying. Nothing wrong with that. But it isn’t professional publishing, and nobody counts it as such.
3. Given the time and financial situation to facilitate it, is there one special project you would love to create?
I would like to write a multi-volume military space opera. I’ve got 125K words of one. Don’t laugh.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
Tough call. I liked Lucy Sussex’s Matilda Told Such Dreadful Lies, but of course that contained short fiction of hers going back to 1994. The last in Garth Nix’s Keys to the Kingdom, Lord Sunday – but, cripes, that was two years ago. Um. Sean Williams’ and Garth Nix’s Trouble Twisters? How long ago was that? Tansy Rayner Roberts’ Creature Court novels are good.
5. Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Nothing revolutionary, I think, but evolution is happening. Definitely generational change is taking place. And a damn good thing, too. New voices are being heard. Best of all, the small presses are cranking. But fandom rolls on. Long may it roll. SwanCon is now being managed and organised by people thirty and forty years younger than me, and if I have any concern at all, it’s that they’re a little too respectful of its venerability. Maybe we need a small, minority reader con, concerned with words in a line rather than media, games and comics, but it’s not a major problem.
As I said, I’m looking towards epublishing. At the moment, it’s got problems with the platforms being tied to specific suppliers, but that can’t last. Sooner or later the attempted monopolies will break down, and people will be able to download content from any source to any machine, like the internet itself. And then we’ll see.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 1 June to 7 June and archiving them at ASif!: Australian SpecFic in Focus. You can read interviews at: