Brendan Duffy has been nominated for, and won, numerous awards for his fiction, and has appeared in The Year’s Best Fantasy, edited by David Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer.
1. It’s been a couple of years since Louder Echo, in particular, took Australia and the world by storm, appearing in David Hartwell and Kathryn Kramer’s Years Best. Since then you’ve picked up another Aurealis Award for Come to Daddy, and a Ditmar nom for World’s Wackiest Upper Atmosphere Re-Entry Disasters Dating Game. Are you happy with the progress of your writing over the period, and where to from here?
Thanks. Hey, don’t forget that The Tale of Enis Cash, Smallgoods Smokehand was picked up for the Congreve and Marquardt Years Best Australian SF/F. I’m really happy with my writing achievements. My last short story sale was a 13K hard sf post-hume love story to Postscripts Magazine, which was a great sale, and will appear in issue 15. As for my writing progress, I’m really looking forward to creating a larger body of work, particularly novels. Where to from here? I have a number of story synopses, scene plans, ideas and character profiles waiting to be written: shorts involving Post-Vedic Indian cyberpunk, foiling Egyptian tomb robbers across eternity, why Ratzinger made the Popal architect remove Limbo from Hell, an ex-con who works his way up the rungs of a fast food franchise in post-revolution Melbourne, and I’m currently working on a Renaissance novel about the evils of the camera obscura, parabolic reflectors, demonology, and other forms of natural magic.
2. A common theme in your work seems to be little people caught in big messes. There’s also a dark humour underlying a lot of your writing that complements the often tough themes. Is this something you aim toward? What do you think characterises the kind of writing that you aim for? What are the things that you most look to capture in your fiction?
Yeah, I guess you’ve nailed it right there. Life is chaos, turmoil, and I like stories about kids or similar – people newly arrived from the vat or digital ether – thrown into it. I loved the Iranian film The Runner for that reason. I also like to write about people getting fucked over by more powerful people. It’s my favourite bugbear, and my easy passion, so it translates well onto the page. The antagonist can be an organization, a culture or meme, or even an innate nature or genetic process. In Louder Echo the protag vies for control and wins, In Come to Daddy they realise that they could only ever have limited control, but live happy within their zoo. I’m currently working on a character that knows their only control is whether to choose damnation or remain being screwed. I don’t know how that’s funny, but when I’m there, on the page, or in its evil doppelganger, life, I guess I make the most of where I am and get comfy, try to get a laugh in. Don’t we all? It’s a cozy old gutter.
3. Your output in terms of stories published seems steady at one or two stories a year. Are you a slow writer? Are you working on longer work too, or is fatherhood taking up all your time?
My writing time is at a minimum, but plenty of others manage a steady output of good work dealing with jobs and parenthood, so, yes, I am a slow writer. It’s worthwhile to let stories mature, and even after I think a story is complete, gloss and polish still zoom out of the blue. I have to mentally close a story and then move on to The Next Big Thing. My comfort zone is long short stories and novellas, but I’m now interested in writing longer works. I’m currently working on a 10K short, a 30K novella, I’m 50K into a novel, and have two more planned. I’m also collaborating on two short stories. The hardest thing for me about being a slow writer writing a novel is that I become frustrated with my progress and flee back to the tried realm of short stories for a quick(er) fix. I’m trying to resist this temptation because it takes a long time to reacquaint with the coalface.
4. Time to share the love. What other authors are you enjoying at the moment?
I’m currently enjoying The Island of the Day Before, Umberto Eco is great if you forgive him his sesquipedalian interludes. I tried reading Foucault’s Pendulum when it was released, every paragraph had me flipping in the dictionary. After five pages I actually threw it across the room. It took me years to lighten up and try him again, Baudolino and Name of the Rose were wonderful. Recent reads include A Fine Balance by Rohinton Mistry, Vandermeer, Jeffrey Ford, Italo Calvino, everything by Iain M Banks, PKD, but I’m really digging non-fiction story research at the moment.
5. 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?
Definitely Paul Haines from a Paul Haines story, but Spongebob to mop up afterwards.