Geoff Maloney is the author of numerous short stories, which can be found in such places as Orb #6, Aurealis #33/34/35, and Ticonderoga Online. He has also edited a few anthologies, such as the recent Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane, and can be found online at: http://members.ozemail.com.au/~gmdb
Q1:Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane came out this year, which you co-edited with Zoran Zivkovic. The title made me laugh, since Brisbane is not the sort of place I imagine having a fantastical journey towards! What has the response been like to this anthology, and what do you think of the final product?
I think the title needs to be looked at in a couple of ways. Firstly, the origin of the anthology goes back to Zoran Zivkovic’s visit to Australia as a guest writer at the 2004 Brisbane Writers’ Festival. At that time Zoran, who lives in Belgrade, Serbia, had recently won a World Fantasy Award for his novella, “The Library”. I had already made Zoran’s acquaintance through Kirsten Bishop and the fact that we were both involved with Prime Books in the US at that time. While he was in Brisbane, Zoran held a writers’ masterclass for the Queensland Writers’ Centre and, out of that class, “The Devil in Brisbane” was born. Zoran was very keen to follow this up with a second anthology and so “Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane” was launched. This time Trent Jamieson came onboard to help with the selection of the stories and assist with the editing process. Trent’s experience from his work on “Redsine” was invaluable.
While we in Australia think of Brisbane as just another Australian city – and one perhaps with a politically shady past – the reality is that for many people in the northern hemisphere Brisbane is exotic and just the sort of place you might have a magical journey to. As the publisher is Izvori in Zagreb, Croatia, this is entirely suitable.
Secondly, by grounding the anthology in a named city, we were able to give writers, who wished to contribute, clear directions we were after stories that were in the nature of travelling or returning to an urban destination, and this would avoid getting many stories that were set in the “inexplicable nowhere”. The writers handled this concept extremely well and if Brisbane wasn’t exotic to people in Australia before, it should be now. As we say in the promo for the book:
Inspired by World Fantasy Award winner Zoran Zivkovic’s mosaic novella, “Compartments”, each writer has crafted their own special tale of a journey to the mythical city of Brisbane. It is a place that only appears on the map of the imagination – a place where suspected terrorists and supernatural beings are incarcerated…where renegade cyborgs and lads from the bush seek salvation… a city awaiting the arrival of the new messiah, while malevolent water-spirits wander the reaches of its river. It is also the place your aunties visit on holidays of transformation and others find their own special road to heaven and hell.
At this stage, it’s too early to gauge the response. We’ve had a review at ASif! which everybody agreed was pretty good, but we’re only just starting to get some local distribution, and haven’t got the Izvori website set-up yet for European and international sales. All of that is coming soon.
Coming from Izvori in Croatia, the production quality of this book is unique and exceptional. It’s in a hard cover format that is often used in Croatia. The cover is like a sunny day in Brisbane, and the internal layout, which was done by Damir Mikulicic at Izvori, is one of the best I’ve ever seen.
Q2: Ben Peek interviewed you for the ancestor of this project, Snapshot 2005. In it, Peek asked your opinion on the Aussie scene, and one of your comments was about the short story scene: “Personally, I like short stories, but if I was a person who really wanted to write novels in Australia, I wouldn’t go anywhere near the short story market. There’s very little money in it and the time it takes to write several short stories would be much better spent on writing your next novel…”. Do you think this still holds true for the Aussie scene, two years later? And if it does, is there anything we can do about it?
Yes, I think it’s still true. It’s a model that American friends tell me works in the US, but I don’t think it ever has in Australia. I think the only thing to be done is to be careful not to assume that US publishing advice applies in Australia. It simply means that Australian writers shouldn’t feel compelled in any way to write short stories if they’re aiming to get a novel published in the local market.
It’s a fact of life at the moment that short stories are just not as popular as they used to be, but neither are slim novels. The long novel is very popular across most genres.
Impossible to say whether that will change. But nobody should start writing short stories thinking they can make a career out of it. You write them because you personally like the form, or to be perfectly pragmatic because you simply don’t have the time to commit to writing long novels.
Although I do have a few novel drafts in the bottom drawer.
Q3: You’ve been involved in editing two anthologies with Zoran Zivkovic in the past, The Devil in Brisbane and Fantastical Journeys to Brisbane. Do you see yourself being involved in more anthologies and editing over the next five years, or concentrating solely on your own writing?
I also did the editorial work on the first CSFG anthology, “Nor of Human…” and had a range of editorial roles in relation to Lee Battersby and Paul Haine’s collections through Prime Books. I was also guest editor on Znak Sagite #15, which Bill Congreve contributed an article for on the state of Australian speculative fiction, and included some great stories by Australian writers. Anybody in Australia who has seen a copy of that magazine has been very impressed by its quite amazing art work. They couldn’t read it, however, because it’s all in Serbian.
Overall, I see myself as a writer, not an editor, although I’m quite proud of the editorial work I’ve done. The editorial role has mostly come about because I’ve been invited to do it, by Zoran and others. But I should make the point that my role in production of the books has only been that of editor. Unlike Russell Farr at Ticonderoga or Cat Sparks at Agog! or Angela Challis at Brimstone, I haven’t had to worry about publishing the book as well.
So, no, I’m not actively seeking editorial opportunities. Not sure at this stage if Zoran has any future plans; you never know what Zoran has up his sleeve. He is quite a magician.
And, you know, my short stories continue to get published, here and overseas, and I’m happy about that. I was published in the first issue of Aurealis and I’ll have a story coming out in the next issue. I guess some people would think that’s bad. I think it’s good.
I don’t actually think of things in terms of “my writing career” or “my editorial career”. Writing is important to me, but when I put the editor’s hat on its important to me too. When I go to my day job, working on housing policy issues, it’s important as well, and bringing up three young daughters with my wife Diana is possibly the most important thing I could ever do. It’s more about having a life where writing plays an important part, rather than writing or editing being the only thing you do.
Q4: Along with working and so forth, I presume you’ve had time to relax and read: what’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
People who know me know that I have a passion for European fiction, especially Russian writers, and if they write dark urban fantasies with a wicked sense of humour that’s even better. The best novel I read this year was the “Master and Margarita” by Mikhail Bulgakov. It’s a classic of speculative fiction. Masterful writing and wonderful story-telling. The other best novel I read was also by Bulgakov, “The White Guard” about the fall of Kiev during the Russian Revolution. Not speculative fiction, but a must read book for anybody who is interested in the techniques of writing. Just brilliant writing from start to finish, and a marvellous historical story.
Q5: And, to finish in a totally shameless way: you’ve got the chance to get it on with any fictional character. Who would it be?
Does Samantha in “Bewitched” count?