Interview by Ben Peek
Chris Barnes was recently nominated for an Aurealis Award. His work is currently appearing in Daikaiju!, edited by Robert Hood and Robin Pen.
1) You’re a new writer on the scene. What would you say your goal is with your fiction, and why does that mean people should bother hunting out Chris Barnes’ work?
I get a big thrill out of people enjoying my stories. I guess that’s hardly a rare thing for any writer. But in particular, a lot of my stories seem to have a feel-good quality (not that I consciously plan them to). They’re not especially dark and gritty. I’m trying to learn how to get more edge into the writing without losing that ‘feelgoodness’, or heart, that many people have commented on. Also, I want to come up with better plots, e.g. twists and surprises. I love stories where you figure out what’s going on just as the story ends, but lack of knowing hasn’t stopped you being pulled all the way through. I want to write stories like that.
Those are my goals for the moment. I guess people should hunt out my stories to see how I’m faring with that.
Of course, it could be that people will now read my stories and say ‘Heart? Who’s he trying to kid? This didn’t make me feel good at all!’
2) What’s your long term plan, and do you plan to jump round into editing and publishing?
Long term: finish my current novel, start the next one, possibly write a series of linked stories based on a character and world that I’m developing. So, write novels and keep producing short stories and one day be able to live off that.
No, I have no intent to edit or publish any anthologies or magazines. Maybe someday, but I can’t see it at present.
3) Your honest opinion of the quality of the local scene, it’s positives and negatives.
I think the local scene is building up a head of steam. US editors are aware of us (e.g. Hartwell and Datlow coming over for Clarion South has put us much more on their radar). Prime is setting up in Sydney and has taken on local writers (Geoff Maloney’s efforts have helped there). There seems to be a growing bunch of ’emerging’ writers here now, and growing confidence that our best work is as good as anything anywhere. And our best work is the equal of the US or UK or anywhere else. There’s plenty of Agog! stories, for example, that I reckon are better than many stories I’ve seen in the professional US markets.
Negative? Well, it can be rather incestuous, and it doesn’t pay much. There’s a lot of ordinary stuff being published. But that’s true also of the bigger scenes (i.e. US and UK). We’re just a small marketplace, that’s all, so it’s harder to pay top rates and it’s inevitable editors and writers will come from a small pool of people. Overall I think the Oz scene is shaping up very well.
4) You’re dead. Boom. Thirty five impossibly fat people drop from the sky and squash you. You go to heaven (assuming there is, blah blah, you know the drill) and God is there, waiting. What do you say?
‘Oh, hi. Thanks for having me over, especially after that whole agnosticism thing. Which way to the Temple of All Knowledge? And by the way, what was with that hail of lard-arses? Don’t you do rains of fire, or toads, anymore?’ (Well, if it really happened I doubt I’d be so cool. I’d probably actually gibber and stammer a lot while God waited patiently for me to calm down.)
5) Favourite swear word?
‘Fuck’ and ‘cunt’ are about equal. I use ‘fuck ‘ a lot more, but ‘cunt’ is reserved for extra oomph (and for lesbian feminist poetry). They’re both good, guttural verbal explosives, good for personal stress relief. Fuck has lost a lot of power in most circles. Cunt is still pretty potent though.
And for amusement value, I like ‘bollocks’. (Note how the use of quote marks is so crucial to that sentence.)