Interview by Ben Peek
Martin’s work is currently appearing in Ticonderoga Online, Borderlands #5, Robert Hood and Robin Pen’s anthology Daikaiju, and Mitch? 4: Slow Dancing Through Quicksand. Shortly he will be appearing at Antipodean Sci-Fi and the anthology Robots and Time.
1) You began publishing in 1992, at the age of 22 (or around), so how has a Martin Livings story changed? What attracts you now that didn’t attract you then, and vice versa.
I’m really not sure. Asking that is a little like asking how you’ve changed yourself over the years, which in turn is like asking you to look at the back of your own head without the benefit of a mirror. It’s a question of perspective, an inability to see the forest for the trees, and all that cliched crap. I guess I’m a helluva lot happier than I was back then, in a relationship and a decent job, getting a regular trickle of stories out there, but have my stories actually changed over the years? They’ve matured as I’ve matured, I guess, and the craftwork has probably developed, but I think the subject matter’s pretty much remained the same. I’m still attracted to horrible things happening to people. Hmm… that’s pretty tragic, actually!
2) My first exposure to your work was as the reviewer of Eidolon, and your reviews then were uncompromising, scathing, and quite entertaining (as well as being informative). Did you cop any flack over that? And why did you give up the reviewing?
I copped a little flack over my reviewing in Eidolon, yeah, though it was tremendous fun and incredibly liberating to be able to just say whatever you were thinking. I know I’m not on Shannah Jay’s Christmas card list, and Sean Thomas O’Brien put a fatwah on my head years ago. And I don’t think Terry Dowling’s ever forgiven me for reviewing his collection as something even slightly less than brilliant. But the only actual face-to-face flack I ever had was from Tess Williams, who cornered me at a room party at a Swancon and berated me for a luke-warm review. Ironically, I didn’t ever write the review, only edited it, but nonetheless, I got the blame.
That only lasted a few minutes, though, and then we had a good chat. So if that’s the worst that can happen, so be it. Certainly nothing compared to your own public flaying of a certain someone recently. 😉
3) Awards. You appear to be quite partial to the recognition they bring, and–just on what I’ve read–you do appear disappointed you have gotten more in this way. Why on both parts of that?
Like most writers, I’m shallow and insecure, and thrive on the adulation of others. No-one writes in vaccuum, and we love to have people tell us we’re doing okay, that they like what we’re writing. After all, we’re hardly doing it for the money! And awards, right or wrong, are considered by most as a barometer of quality, particularly by those unfamiliar with how they actually work, so to get awards (or nominations thereof) gives one that nice warm fuzzy feeling of a wide positive response. And, conversely, missing out feels like a cold shoulder, irrational as that is. It’s particularly frustrating when a story of yours that you weren’t that keen on gets nominated for everything, while one that you think is actually something special doesn’t even make a blip on the radar. You start to question your own ideas of what’s good and what’s not.
But hey, that’s show biz! If I ever want to be nominated again, I’ll just have to write a followup to “Freud”! 😉
4) You’re dead. It was a tragic, tragic pumpkin accident. Sufficient to say, a whole second grade of Catholic children will never be the same. Anyhow, you go to Heaven (assuming you believe, yadda yadda) and you see God. You say?
“Oh mighty Lord, accept me into your kingdom, as I accept you into my soul as my saviour and father… NOT! PSYCH! Uhhh… oh, okay… down that flight of stairs? Keep going? Okay… bloody God, can’t take a joke…”
5) Favourite swear word?
It depends on the time of day. Rush-hour traffic usually provokes “fuck” and “shit”, but in general, I probably use “bollocks” the most. Or the worst swear word of all, “dubya”.