2007 Snapshot Archive: Adam Browne

Interviewed by Ben Payne

First published at ASiF!

For a number of years Adam Browne has been gaining praise for his stories, which mix engaging ideas with clever wordplay and imagery. His latest story is in Orb #7

1. You’re well known for your enjoyment of playing with the English language. In my experience your work tends to divide readers, between those who love it and those who find it too wordy. Is this a concern for you or is it more a matter of finding your niche and those people who love wordplay as much as you do?

Yeah: I was so excited when I first began to read the crammed prose of cyberpunk – implying an entire world just with its style – I realised then the power language has to convey otherworldliness, and never looked back. It just seems natural to write fantastical stuff in a fantastical way. Someone described my stories as Faberge eggs – simple in form, but phantasmagorically ornamented. There’s the danger, though, of obfuscating rather than elucidating – the squid hiding behind its own ink – and I’ve tried a looser style in recent years, sometimes more succesfully than others. I like ‘Bladderwrack’, in the latest Agog!, and ‘Blood Drunk’ in the excellent Cardigan Press Anthology, and ‘Honeymoon’, written with John Dixon (in C0CK), is one of my favourites – groaning with ideas but never portentous, always breezy – a bit of whimsy, yes, but whimsy is a hard thing to make work – I reckon it can be harder to write something that’s fun than something that’s all heavy and worthy. But I recently wrote a short story set on a clockwork world (was slightly appalled to hear Jay Lake has written a whole novel along the same lines), which is very dense, lyrical, crammed – so I haven’t abandoned the style, just trying to enlarge my writer’s toolkit.

2. You’ve received a fair bit of acclaim for your short work, but we’re yet to see you branch out into the longer form. Are you working on a novel, and if so, is it a challenge to adapt your particular style of writing to the longer form?

I’ve been pretty quiet in the short story scene the past few years because I’ve been working on a novel – Phantasmagoriana – a 17th century space opera. Almost finished after 5 years. Yeah, it’s been a big challenge – very different process – a ticklish thing – keeping the characters behaving as they should – keeping it emotionally honest without being too sentimental or too dry – keeping the characters central to the plot when the ideas are what I’m really excited about – making sure the prose is readable while also indulging my love of the high-style… It’s pretty hard; the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I reckon it’s working out okay.

3. Enough about writing. What have you read recently that you could recommend?

The best thing I’ve read in ages was The Road – Cormac McCarthy – fucken amazing – read the whole thing in one or two sittings. It’s flawed, but they’re the kind of flaws you see in masterpieces, if that makes sense. Probably doesn’t. Also, not books, but I’ve been consuming every Studio Ghibli film I can lay my hands on – at their best, they’re additions to the genre of the fantastic every bit as worthy as Alice in Wonderland…

4. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be?

I was in love for a long time with Fuschia Groan from the Gormenghast books. Not sure about ‘getting it on’ with her – more something about hypersensitive wandering with her down infinite corridors or cramped attics loud with owls, maybe a furtive touch of the hands now and again, interrupted by some grotesque from the kitchens or chapter-long exploration of the Hall of the Bright Carvers, sumptuous with dust…


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