2007 Snapshot Archive: Damien Broderick

Interviewed by Alisa Krasnostein

First published at ASiF!

Damien Broderick lives in Texas these days, where the weather is like summer in Old North Australia–hot and often sticky. Instead of blowies, mozzies. He’s preparing his 40th book.

Q1. I really enjoy the fiction you publish in COSMOS.


What do you look for in stories for this market

Accessible, well-wrought short stories with a classic sf feel. I’d be inclined to get more experimental myself, but that’s my (ahem) fatal flaw, and my editor in chief hauls me back from such suicidal gestures. That doesn’t make our sf stodgy–check out the rather naughty and amusing “Family Values” by Sara Genge in the latest issue.

and how hard are they to find?

Awfully hard. I never really understood what horror imbued the words “slush pile” until these last couple of years.

As a bonus question, will you ever look to increase the number of stories in an issue? (I’m always left wanting more)

Wilson, my editor, has allowed me to double the word limit from 2000, since lots of capable writers find 4K words easier to manage. The Dec/Jan ish always has two stories. We might go to two in one of the other 5 issues, but that would be exceptional. Meanwhile, COSMOS On-line is running a new short-short from time to time–worth checking there.

Q2 Congratulations on your recent Aurealis Award for the conclusion to your Godplayers/K-Machines books.

Thank you. I regard it as an award for both books, since they really constitute one complete story, and the second volume doesn’t make much sense without the first.

Are you looking to write anything else in this universe?

A terrible thing happened. My publisher, Thunder’s Mouth Press in New York, vanished a few months ago, following a disastrous distribution crash and bankruptcy on the west coast. This wiped out a lot of smaller publishers, I gather. Mine was notionally absorbed in bits and pieces by elements of the Perseus group. My latest book, a non fiction study of recent parapsychology (Outside the Gates of Science), came out just as this catastrophe was happening. So…

…while those two novels were designed to be complete in themselves (and were so funded by the Australia Council), over the couple of years I did develop a very much larger background universe than I was able to deploy fully in the diptych. I was considering an extension of the sequence when (1) my editor went elsewhere, and (2) my publisher was eaten. The prospects don’t look good–I don’t think other publishers are ever eager to continue a sequence when they don’t have rights to the first books. Maybe I’ll be able to claw them back.

Do you have any plans for your next SF novel?

Lately I’ve been dreaming of invading other writers’ universes (with permission, naturally), but I probably won’t. This is usually disdained as “share-cropping” and rightly so. What attracts me is the idea of finding new stories in the classic venues I was gobsmacked by as a kid–Clarke’s The City and the Stars, Bester’s worlds, Shiras’s Children of the Atom, Blish’s Cities in Flight, Delany’sBabel-17… In the real world, I was invited by the late Byron Preiss to do three novels in Asimov’s Robot universe. I worked like a fiend, reread them all, came up with what I thought were threefucking great ideas… and then he told me that, oh, sorry, no, we only have the rights to this tiny corner of Asimov’s universe, no Baley, no R. Daneel Olivaw… I said rude words and walked away. A few years later Preiss died in a car crash and his empire folded up, swallowing books by my pal Russell Blackford and others; I was lucky to have got away.

But I’ll surely do another sf novel sooner or later. The trouble is that I’m interested in approaching narrative in skewed ways, and a lot of readers Just Don’t Get It, and it makes them mad as hell and they’re not gonna put up with it any more. Have a look at the rabid outbursts on Amazon.com’s Godplayer’s page. I lost my temper the other day and posted a rather cross response, pointing out that the books are structured in a complicated if slightly unorthodox way… a bit like the painting and music that shocked everyone a, uh, whole century ago. Sf as the literature of the future is sometimes a rather hollow phrase. The future in 1890, maybe…

Q3 Recently you experimented with the online serialisation of your novel, Post Mortal Syndrome. What was the motivation behind this format and how successful do you think it was?

It’s the age o’ the internet, right? We wanted to see if people could read and enjoy a book delivered free over a couple of months of 5-days/week bites. Many seem to have done so–I’m told we’ve already had more than 100,000 page hits, and the entire novel is still there for new readers to find. Spread the word! 🙂

Meanwhile, we have a traditional book publisher looking at it, rather as serials in Analog also appeared a while later in paperback or hardcover form.

Would you look at using it again?

If we or I ever write another book aimed at a mass audience, sure. And Cosmos is open to doing it again with another sf novel by an Aussie–but that will be by invitation only. If any published writer reading this finds the idea appealing, do contact me at the Cosmos fiction address.

Q4 Do you read much of the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?

Not much, except what’s anthologized–and of course a lot that comes to me as editor. I’m currently reading Sean Williams’ Saturn Returns, which is pretty nifty; it reminds me somewhat of Iain M. Banks, whose space opera I admire the hell out of.

Q5 – And finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?

Why, the albino Lady Olivia Presteign, of course. But only if I can be Gully Foyle. (And if anyone doesn’t get the reference, shame on you, and rush instantly to the joy of reading Alfie Bester’s very great 1956 novel The Stars My Destination.)

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