Keith Stevenson is a science fiction writer, past editor of Aurealis Magazine and Director of the Aurealis Awards. In 2005 he began coeur de lion publishing with fellow author Andrew Macrae, the Australian independent imprint that brought you c0ck – adventures in masculinity. As well as all that he runs a science fiction manuscript assessment business and is the new science fiction and horror reviewer for Aurealis Magazine. All the sordid details can be found at www.keithstevenson.com
Q1. Your recent anthology, c0ck, which you coedited with Andy Macrae, received a lot of attention, including a Ditmar for Best Novella. Do you plan on following up with a sequel to this anthology? And if so, what sorts of themes are you interested in exploring? What other projects are you planning for coeur de lion?
Well as soon as we announced c0ck there were many, many suggestions or what we should call the sequel, as I’m sure you can imagine. Charlie Stross suggested Balls at the launch, and that was one of the milder ideas. There were some suggestions to do a women centred antho, but we didn’t feel qualified to edit such a thing. So no sequel, not in the near future anyway. But Andy came up with our next title and theme and as soon as I heard it I knew it would be something that readers and writers would be into. It’s called s l o w and the idea is to do a book of quiet spec fic. No big space battles and high andrenaline excitement but more a focus on the type of stories that creep up on you, inveigle themselves into your psyche, stand behind you and whisper in your ear, slow burning stories that build and build until you get to the last line and think, ‘oh fuck.’ That’s the challenge and I think it will excite writers just as much as c0ck did. I mean the writers in c0ck read like a who’s who of oz sf, and it wasn’t an invitation only gig, nor did we actively seek out and prime writers to submit, they just loved the idea and went for it.
Other projects. Well Rynemonn is up next and I’ll cover that in my next answer, but after that and s l o w I’d like to do a standalone novel. The beauty of independent press is that we can print stuff that the mainstream publishers wouldn’t touch because it’s too risky. There is a great deal of good writing out there that is being ignored because it doesn’t fit the formula. I’ve been pretty vocal about mainstream fantasy offerings in the past, so what I’d like to do is put my money where my mouth is and publish a fantasy novel which is so mindblowing, so shockingly new that it will make those formula fantasies look like wet toilet paper. That’s what’s floating around in my head anyway.
Q2. You’re about to launch Terry Dowling’s fourth collection of the Tom Rynosseros at Conflux. For those of us who haven’t read the first 3, could you give a brief overview? What can fans of the stories expect from this fourth collection, Rynemonn?
Okay – for those gentle readers new to this most unique Australian spec fic work check out our blurb at http://www.coeurdelion.com.au/
Terry is IMHO the best spec fic writer in Australia today. His works are intelligent, poetic, and emotionally rounded, a unique combination. The storytelling in the series is richly evocative and, as Jonathan Strahan said, the Tom Rynosseros stories, ‘stand amongst the very best work that science fiction has to offer.’ That’s a big claim, I know, but it’s on the money.
Because of what has gone before, Tom has become an outlaw in the eyes of the Ab’O tribes. The fourth collection of stories are intertwined with a linking story called “Doing The Line”, where Tom goes on a kind of walkabout where he’s trying to work out where to go from here in finding the answers he seeks about his own life and the situation he finds himself in with the Ab’O. “Doing The Line” and 3 other stories are previously unpublished and the remaining eight stories are reprints. Look it’s hard to explain what happens in the space I have here, but the thing is an absolute joy to read and the final three stories which finish the tale once and for all are very powerful. I’ve read the whole thing four times now and I can’t read the end without crying, it’s sad and uplifting and just so right all at once. Listen people, you need to read this book. For Tom fans it’s everything you could hope for, for those new to Tom’s universe, you are very lucky people because you have a whole beautiful journey ahead of you.
Q3. You’ve recently taken over as the Aurealis science fiction and horror reviewer from Bill Congreve. Will you be focussing on any markets in particular?
Well it goes without saying the focus will be on Australian writing, and I also want to focus on the independent market because that’s where a lot of amazing stuff is happening. But we’ll be fully covering the mainstream publishers as well. With the entry of Orbit into the local Australian market, things are getting very interesting and we can expect many more titles and – hopefully – more Australians getting the nod from the big companies.
Q4. Do you read much of the Aus spec fic scene? What’s the best thing you’ve read this year?
Well since I’m the new Aurealis reviewer I’m reading heaps, although I’ve always read what the local market is producing. The best thing I’ve read this year… Well I haven’t finished it yet but Sean William’s Saturn Returns is leaving me fairly gobsmacked. I’ve read all his SF to date and for me he’s really kicked things up a gear with this latest novel. The writing is so controlled and confident and believable. His dialogue in particular is very good and there’s a wry sense of humour there too. Another book which was a pleasant surprise is first time writer David Kowalski’s The Company of the Dead, a very neat alternative history thriller from Pan Macmillan that is, again, incredibly well written. It reads like a bestseller. I’ve also just got a copy of William Gibson’s new one Spook Country, which I am looking forward to reading, because his last outing, Pattern Recognition, was phenomenal.
Q5. And finally, if you had the chance to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most, who would it be?
Hmm, well if she wasn’t happily married it would have to be Rachel Mansour, the sexy, deadly, smart and funny agent from Charlie Stross’s Iron Sunrise and Singularity Sky. Her or Parrish Plessey, sexy, deadly, sassy, witty assassin from Marianne De Pierres’ Nylon Angel etc. Or Jasper Fforde’s Thursday Next, sexy, intelligent, quick-witted… are you beginning to see a pattern here?