2007 Snapshot Archive: Lee Battersby

Interviewed by Tansy Rayner Roberts

First published at ASiF!

Lee Battersby is a speculative fiction author. His website can be found at: http://www.battersby.com.au and he blogs at: http://battersblog.blogspot.com

Q1 – You recently had a Doctor Who story published in the Australians-heavy Short Trips: Destination Prague. What was your Doctor-Companion pairing, and just how awesome was it to be writing in the Who universe? Would you do it again?

4 of us contributed to the book: Stephen Dedman, Rob Hood, and Sean Williams, along with myself. Not bad, from 21 stories. It was fun to write for the Doctor, and I was lucky enough to be allowed to write for the 2nd Doctor, who is pretty much my favourite. It was an… interesting… experience. Big Finish and the BBC have very definite rules and regulations surrounding the characters, and my story was heavily (and, I thought, badly) edited before it saw print. I was really unhappy with the end product of that editing: I felt a lot of the nuances were cut out without a lot of thought as to the resulting shape of the story. But that’s the compromise you make when you play with someone else’s toys, and you know, it’s The Doctor! I’d do it again in a shot. It’s just one of those childhood wishes come true. Short of being a companion…

I’m talking to an editor about writing for another anthology they’re proposing, and trying to make some contacts of my own in the hope of pitching an anthology idea I want to edit. It’s a purely seflish fun– I’m a big fan of the first Doctor Who run, and I enjoyed Torchwood (much more than the current Doctor Who stuff), so it’s a chance to contribute to something that gives me enjoyment.

Q2 – What has changed for you since the 2005 Snapshot? (http://www.tabula-rasa.info/Snapshot/LeeBattersby.html)

I’m less involved in the local genre scene than I was. I’ve fallen out of love with it a little bit, I think. In the last two years, a number of projects have been announced amidst fanfare and pomp, only to fall apart when it came time for the people behind it to make sure it was viable. I really became sick of working on something, only to find its intended home had disappeared. Stories take time and energy, and I don’t just slap things together: it pisses me off to put my heart into something and then find that others can’t be bothered getting their end of the deal sorted out.

I’m a bit more disillusioned than I was when the last Snapshot was put together. I’ve had some bad experiences, and being part of the Australian small press environment is much less important to me than it used to be. I’m much choosier about what I get involved in, and my out-of-writing life has changed to such an extent that I have to be very sure of a project when I commit my time to producing something for it. I can’t afford to invest what has become very limited writing time to working on a story for a project just because someone I know (often only electronically) is helming it, only to see it fold, for whatever reason, somewhere down the line. I work full time now, which I didn’t back then, I have a new house, and my kids are older. When I write now, I’m much more interested in using that piece to advance my credentials than I used to be, because I’m lucky if I have three or four hours a week, and I have to make them count.

I’ve become a lot more insular, as well. I’ve never been particularly popular, and these days, I have a very small circle of friends, and an only slightly wider circle of acquanitances with whom I share a mutual respect. Outside of my wife and kids, I really don’t have any regular contact with people. Much of that is by choice, but it’s a choice with which the world seems comfortable. I’ve never really fit in, no matter what community I’ve been a part of, and SF continues that pattern. I’m *of* the community, rather than *in* it. Much of the focus of the Australian SF small press is aimed towards local magazines, and that’s not where my greatest interest lies at the moment, so I’ve fallen out of touch quite quickly.

Q3 – What are you working on right now, and what does your writing future hold?

Most of my year has been taken up working on a film adaptation of Lyn’s short story “The Memory of Breathing”, which has been optioned by production company Azure Productions. Thanks to the wonderful Karen Miller, I’ve been in touch with an agent in the States who’s shown some interest in taking on my novel, which has also been an ongoing process. I’ve written and sent a few short stories, but nowhere near my usual pace. I have stories upcoming in Daikaiju III and Dreaming Down Under, as well as Brimstone Press’ Black Box anthology, and that’s all the print I have in the near future. I’ve been recreating my catalogue from scratch, and that takes time.

I’ve also spent the last three months acting as a mentor for the AHWA, working with AHWA member Mark Smith-Briggs to improve his work. So I know the name of at least one person who wants to kill me 🙂

Much of this year has been about divesting myself of the past: I suffered a catastrophic computer meltdown at the start of the year and lost something like 80 stories I was working on, and quite literally had to start from scratch with new work. I took that as somewhat of an omen, and decided that my focus from now on would be about doing what I *want* to do, rather than what I feel duty bound to do in order to build a ‘career’, particularly as that career wasn’t developing along lines that satisfied me on a personal level. The people I look up to, artistically, are the likes of Spike Milligan, David Hockney, David Bowie– artists who were able to create a place for themselves across several forms of media. I’d like to build something similar. I don’t want to be an SF writer. Not *just*, anyway. I’d like my wings to spread a little wider.

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

I don’t read much local SF these days. I don’t enjoy it: not the work, so much, but I fall too easily into the habit of comparing and contrasting people’s work with my own. And, to be honest, I still don’t feel like enough work pushes hard enough– there’s still too many people playing safe, producing middle-of-the-road work instead of reaching for something artistically challenging. I read a lot of non-fiction, partly beause it’s grist for my mill, and partly because of my own, personal, obsessions. For the same reasons, my TV watching tends towards documentaries. I escape into history, archaeology, true crime, et al, rather than into fiction.

Undoubtedly the best book I’ve read this year is “Hitler’s Pope: The Secret History of Pius XII” by John Cornwell. It’s an absolutely stunning dissection of a truly evil and tyrannical man, and a revelatory work. Fictionwise, “The Portrait of Mrs Charbuque” by Jeffrey Ford has been the highlight. Lyn read it, and raved about it, and I picked it up on her insistence. A bit contrived, and the ending is a letdown, but it’s still a delightful and entrancing journey.

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

Ah, the obligatory wacky snapshot-ending question 🙂 Thanks for the offer, but, trite as it may sound to anyone who doesn’t understand, I already have a real life wife who satisfies all my desires. I simply don’t fancy anybody else.

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