Matthew Chrulew has stories forthcoming in Aurealis, ASIM, The Worker’s Paradise and Macabre. He deeply distrusts people who claim to have no regrets.
1. Most of the stories I’ve read by you tend to lean toward the literary side of genre, rather than the core SF or fantasy tropes. Where do you see your work fitting in terms of genre and the current market?
I’ve certainly read more widely in the literary canons than the speculative ones, and I do write outside the genre. Also in order to write well in SF and fantasy – well, in any genre, but particularly in these – you need a detailed knowledge of the field’s history. This is something I lack more than most, and am slowly and unsurely trying to redress. I do have plans to mess around with more hard core material: cognitive science, knights and prophecies, genetics… Problem is, I’m obsessive about research: I need to have impossibly read all the scientific or historical literature on a subject before I’m willing to try my hand. I get similarly fixated with world-building. The amount of time all this takes means that the work which is easier to finish is that set in more regular locales with only a hint of the fantastic: urban fantasy, slipstream, magic realism, horror. That said, “Where Warriors Wait” was a straight fantasy steeped in Norse mythology.
2. You’re still in the early stages of your career. Are you happy with the way your writing has progressed over the last few years? What are your aims for the period ahead? What are you working on at present?
Slowly, unsurely… I feel I’m still cultivating, building ideas, waiting (I guess) for that mythical chance to sit down and hone something to perfection. But while when I first started subbing last millennium I felt quite urgent about it all – blame it on the long-forgotten Y2K bug – I’m quite happy now taking my time. While it brings its own difficulties, the great thing about short story writing not being any sort of economic prospect is that it becomes entirely about the work.
The period ahead? That involves finishing my PhD. That is all. The PhD is the only thing I will be working on, until such time as the thing has been printed and handed to the mean-spirited spectacled lady.
[Glances around furtively.]
Except, of course, for all the other projects… There’s a mainstream novel I’ve been working on for ten years that is one good whack away from completion. I’d say it was boganlit, if I knew what that was. I’m also working on a novel Touched that explores trauma and embodiment. Much more high-brow. I’m also developing a few different short story suites. A couple of my Androphagi stories will appear soon, with more to come. There will also be mammoths.
3. What’s your impression of the Australian genre scene at the moment? Do you read a lot of local publications? Do you also send your stuff overseas?
I enjoy the social dimension of the scene when I can. Clarion allowed me to force-friend a bunch of great people – without them, my time in Melbourne these last few years would have been much lonelier and soberer. I read what I can of the local mags, when I get my hands on them. Some people seem to sense a bit of a lull from those who made their name in the last few years, but I suspect it’s not so much dropping off the radar – though some inevitably will – but more a matter of time to breathe and create. Everyone’s got the day job, the family, everyone’s got the novel, and they all take so much time. Hopefully, in the next few years we’ll get to see some work taken to a whole other level.
I sure do sub to overseas markets. Got a frustratingly complimentary rejection from one just this morning!
4. Enough about writing. What have you read and enjoyed in recent times?
Late last year I visited a gorgeous abbey in Normandy to research Foucault’s unpublished lectures from the 70s and early 80s. That was a very special reading (and listening) experience. Back in my messy study in Melbourne, on any given day I could go from reading Paul’s epistles to all sorts of misbehaving churches, to Lorenz or Uexküll and their peculiar ideas about animals. There’s some very interesting theology being written at the moment. And I love researching for fiction: conspiracist tracts, colonial journals, ethnography, papal bulls… Goddamn this colossal world archive! But you probably mean fiction, which unfortunately has to scrag for attention. This year I’ve actually done a bit of re-reading of old favourites: Stephen Dedman’s “From Whom All Blessings Flow” I love, Terry Dowling’s “A Dragon Between His Fingers”, any number of stories by Howard Waldrop to whom I compulsively return. Kafka keeps me sane – and I enjoyed Peter Raftos’s The Stone Ship last year. Neal Stephenson and Iain Banks are waiting in the proverbial stack. I read Ted Chiang’s collection, and though I wasn’t as taken as many, I loved the superhuman action story for nerds (whose title escapes me at the moment).
5. Finally, and perhaps most importantly, you’re given the opportunity to get it on with the fictional character you fancy most. Who’s it gonna be?
I was going to be a clever (and marriedly diverting) bastard and say the character Paul Haines from the fiction of Paul Haines. But – of course! – he went and got in first and said it himself, and I’m not sure that’s a threesome I’d want to be involved in. Now, if my gorgeous wife ever decides to write twisted dark fiction featuring herself as the protagonist of wacky backpacker adventures – well, then we’d be talking.