David Conyers is an Adelaide based author. His first novel The Spiraling Worm, co-authored with John Sunseri, was published in the United States this year. He has also been a Ditmar, Aurealis and Aeon Award nominee, and won this year’s Australian Horror Writers Associations Flash Fiction Award. www.davidconyers.com
Q1. I find your fiction to be well grounded in the roots of SF. What are your inspirations for storytelling and what kinds of stories do you aim to tell?
Basically I write mystery thrillers that are plot-driven (although I do like to develop my characters as well), influenced by the spy and political-intrigue genres, yet set predominately in a science fiction landscape. Specific inspirations are space operas, spy thrillers, and near future science fiction.
I’m drawn to stories that have great visual scenes and wondrous ideas, like Iain M. Banks’ Consider Phlebas, Alastair Reynolds’ Chasm City, William Gibson’s Neuromancer and Larry Niven’s Ringworld. Then there are well-crafted thrillers with unexpected twists like Martin Cruz Smith’s Gorky Park and Robert Ludlum’s The Bourne Identity. I also like the just plain weird stuff like Haruki Murakami, David Mitchell and Alex Garland. I like to incorporate all these elements in my own stories as best I can.
Mostly the stories I like to write are about protagonists who find themselves in difficult or compromising situations, often their very lives are at peril, who then have to overcome not only their antagonists and circumstances, but flawed characteristics in themselves.
I believe that real change never really comes about unless a person first understands their own limitations and flaws, and then works to overcome them. Otherwise it’s just a world of people continually forcing their own ideas and morals onto others, which essentially is what most of the world does today. Look at how well that has worked in the past, and in the present with the rise in fundamentalism on all sides of the political and religious arenas, generating more and more intolerance all round. Science fiction then is a great medium to extrapolate upon these ideas to see where they take me.
Q2. A lot of your stories are set against the backdrop of a developing nation, often with conflict and corruption as subtle undercurrents. What interests you about this kind of setting?
Well, travelling in those countries was certainly an eye-opener. That said, I thoroughly enjoyed my experiences in Africa and South America and plan to return to both places again in the future.
In the mid-1990s fellow Australian speculative fiction writer David Witteveen and I were backpacking in Africa. In Bulawayo, Zimbabwe we met a university student who helped us out in a tight spot, so we bought him dinner and had a chat.
What struck me from our conversation was firstly, how poor the African people were compared to us, in that if he wanted to travel like we did he’d have to save for ten years just to get enough money for the plane ticket to Australia, arriving with nothing in his pockets.
Secondly he was afraid that the secret police would later question him for speaking to us. We never knew what happened to him.
I look at Zimbabwe today, ten years later, where the government has now turned into a dictatorship, where internal strife is creating terrible turmoil, unnecessary hardships and killings.
I’ve been a long term supporter of Amnesty International. Reading their newsletters has shown me a lot of what goes on in prisons and police interrogation cells that most of the world doesn’t really know about, or doesn’t want to know about. Personally I’ve witnessed the after effects of psychological, physical and sexual abuse first hand, and seen how some people have overcome their trauma, and how some have not. Unfortunately these traumas are worse in developing countries.
I guess these ideas affect me.
From a science fiction perspective, developing countries can generate a great sense of tension, foreignness, an interesting mix of culture and landscape, and a danger that you just don’t get at home, so this helps to build a thriller style story. Also, it’s easier to feel isolated when you are far away from home, in a world where the support structures like health care, social security, freedom of speech and more-or-less honest police and legal systems are not present, so this becomes a strong tool to use in thriller-style story telling.
Secondly technology can have a devastating effect on developing cultures and economies. As an example, translating the effects of speculative technology by examining how nanotechnology might affect African culture generates interesting ideas for me that I want to write about.
Q3. What projects do you have on the horizon? What stories are on the brink of publication? What can we expect from David Conyers over the next year?
John Sunseri and I have teamed up with US Lovecraftian horror writer C.J. Henderson to write our sequel to our spies versus the Cthulhu Mythos novel The Spiraling Worm, tentatively titled The Unseen Architect. Assuming sales continue to do well with the first book, then the sequel is already half-written and so it might come out next year.
I’m editing a horror anthology for a US publisher which will feature several Australian, US and UK authors, and is likely to be published in 2008.
Right now I’m writing a lot of short stories, almost exclusively science fiction, which are starting to generate positive notice overseas. For instance, I came very close to being short-listed for the Aeon Award in Ireland, and “Aftermath” from Agog! Ripping Reads was recently picked up by Apex Online.
Back home I just won the Australians Horror Writers Associations’ Flash Fiction Award for my dark science fiction piece “Homo Canis”. I’m appearing in various anthologies coming out over the next one to two years, such as Macabre and Black Box from Brimstone Press in Australia, and several more from overseas.
These last few months, most of my writing time has been dedicated to completing a science fiction space opera novel. When I finish it I will need to find a publisher, so that will be my next big adventure.
Q4 Do you read much of the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
I make it a point to read Australian Dark Fantasy & Horror and The Year’s Best Australian SF & Fantasy each year. Otherwise I mostly concentrate on the big name authors like Greg Egan, Matthew Reilly, Sean Williams, Shane Dix and Fiona McIntosh, all of whom I’ve enjoyed, who can teach me something about writing a good story.
Several other Aussie authors’ novels are already lined up on my shelf which I’m planning to read later this year. Mostly I look at the science fiction, because that’s the genre that interests me the most.
The best Australia speculative fiction I’ve read this year is Sean Williams’ and Shane Dix’s Geodesica Accent and Geodesica Decent.
Q5 – And finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?
Despite being happily married and all and not on the market for an imagined relationship, it would have to be Trillian from the movie The Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy, because I find her character inspirational and passionate.
From the written word it would have to be Diziet Sma from Iain Bank’s Use of Weapons, a strange but aluring woman of the Culture.