2007 Snapshot Archive: Miranda Siemienowicz

Interviewed by Ben Payne

First published at ASiF!

One of the rising authors of local publishing, you can read Miranda’s fiction in Island magazine here. The story has been selected for an Honourable Mention in the next Datlow/Link/Grant Year’s Best. Miranda’s reviews and interviews on the Horroscope website.

1. You’re one of several newish writers in the local scene exploring non-realist forms and abstract expression. Where do your own influences come from and what attracts you to these forms?

I am interested in language and writing as art in and of itself, in contrast to writing as story or story-telling. Literature that portrays the emotional realism of traditional character development, even when dressed in speculative elements, is something that I have never found as fascinating as “psychological fabulism” – characters who think and behave within a surreal internal world congruent with the absurdist or magical external world of the story. Often this uses some degree of passivity, as a central attribute is the character’s irrational or non-realist acceptance of their reality. My original inspirations were magic realism, authors such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and his One Hundred Years of Solitude, which exemplifies this kind of character through frank and matter-of-fact narration of fabulist events without the ordinary human responses of surprise and non-acceptance on the part of the characters.

Psychological fabulism is common to other forms of art, and all of these have shaped my understanding and interest in writing. One example is the films of David Lynch (Eraserhead ) or even early French absurdist comedy (Mon Oncle). Non-realist sculpture such as the figures of Giacometti (or, of course, Dali) bring this experience into the real world by creating concrete, three-dimensional forms that in the reality of their physical form create that same requirement of acceptance of the unnatural. At least, that’s what it’s like for me…

2. You’re also a reviewer for HorrorScope, where you’ve reviewed a number of US small press publications, among other articles. How did you get involved with Horrorscope and what do you get out of it at a personal level?

Shane Jiraiya Cummings advertised on the Aurealis website at the beginning of the project in 2005. I had been following the local industry for a few years and saw this as a good way to increase my understanding of current writing. The website is a group production, with contributors having a good deal of independence as to what they review. I’ve tended to seek out things that interest me, with the result reflecting both that and the willingness of publishers to provide material. On a personal level, working for the site has connected me with many writers, publishers and publicists. I can’t count the number of people I have met through the site who have become important to me in some way or another.

I enjoy trying to improve my critical skills. I believe that a bad review is one that presents an opinion without objective justification and, although I no doubt fail repeatedly in doing so, I try to write reviews that discuss the work in such a way that, whether I liked it or not, a reader can decide for themselves. When I feel that I have managed this, I’m happy. There is no black and white in art. The measure of a work is whether it fulfils the intentions of the creator. Cheesy, cliched werewolf or vampire stories may make me cringe, but if they manage to fulfil the requirements essential to a cheesy, cliched werewolf or vampire story they should be commended for that. What it comes down to is something about objective analysis.

3. As a relative newcomer, what’s your impression of the local SF/F/H scene?

Australian speculative writers are welcoming and supportive. My experience has been that they have a genuine desire to help one another, share insight and bring on board those who want to put in. Otherwise it’s the same foible common to artists anywhere in the world and working in any medium: the tendency to revert to black and whites and lose that objective analysis. At least we have venues like the ASif! forums where people can natter to their heart’s content, the occasional ego-flare notwithstanding. Discussion and intellectual challenge is essential for progress.

4. Now on to matters of taste… what have you read lately that dials M for Miranda taste-wise?

Viktor Pelevin is a master of the absurd. Zoran Zivkovic’s use of bland characters in richly symbolic, self-referential and self-contained story cycles is not only unique but incredibly aesthetic. John Banville constructs a fantastic warped realism, and his language is superbly crafted. His content can be aggressively misogynistic, which is a lamentable barrier to his work and an unfortunate reliance on conservativism in his writing. Angela Carter is another master of language. Her portrayal of sexuality ( The Passion of New Eve, The Infernal Desire Machines of Doctor Hoffman) is at once fatalistic and baroquishly symbolic. Then there’s Peter Hoeg for the supreme intellectualisation of his characters, Richard Brautigan for one sentence in In Watermelon Sugar, Mervyn Peake for the Titus series…

Back home, I remain constantly impressed with the work of Rjurik Davidson, whose Ditmar award-winning short story “Fear of White” is a flagship for psychological fabulism (with a framing of “story” for those who like that). Margo Lanagan and Adam Browne are our most skilled word-crafters; Browne’s utterly consistent poetic voice is incredible to read.

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?

Ah. That, my friend, would be Fred and/or George Weasley.

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