First published at Helen Merrick’s blog.
Your current project is rather epic in nature, I understand, relating to opera among other things?
Epic, yeah. It’s a novel, based on the libretto I wrote for a fledgling Brisbane opera company by the name of Outcast Opera. They’re busy figuring out how to fund the production – the floods in Queensland took a screaming dump on Arts funding last year, of course, and now there’s a Conservative government in place, so Arts funding will take it in the butt like it always does under the Conservatives.
Anyway, the story concerns the Bedlam asylum, Lord Byron, a Steampunkish villain, a love story, a Faerie Queene – and the video that Outcast did to raise funds is on YouTube at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=xUbMX8Ega1Y
It’s really good. I mean, forget the words… the costumes, lighting, music, singing and dancing are all incredible. I am absolutely dying to see them get this on stage, so check the little movie, then go find a way to help a poor little Opera company spread its wings.
In the meantime, though, I liked the idea so much that I’m turning it into a novel. I’d have finished it by now, except I also took up an MA at Uni of Tas… and I’m using the novel as background for the creative part of my project: to be precise, I’m writing 12,500 words of narrative poetry in the Ottavo Rima style used by Lord Byron for his epic Don Juan.
The poetry will be integrated with the novel itself in places, and (hopefully) included in full as an appendix. So. Yeah. Epic? Probably. Stupid? Well, I’m notorious for biting off the biggest goddam mouthful that I can, and learning to chew on the run…
Your background is eclectic, to say the least, including nonfiction books, well regarded short stories, and editing – what would you point people to as being vintage Dirk Flinthart?
Vintage? Naaah, bollocks to that. The best is yet to come. But any of the Red Priest (three or four published, to date.) stories is worth a look. And I dearly loved “The Best Dog In The World” , which popped up in the Worlds Next Door anthology. And “This Is Not My Story” was a decent piece, I think.
But I remain proudest of my role in editing Canterbury 2100. Misunderstood, a small print run – but not only were there some very fine stories in there, but the integration of those stories into a coherent narrative which suggests a future-folk-history kind of thing was a remarkably difficult task that I think I pulled off… credibly, at least. Dig up a copy. Enjoy.
What do you hope to be working on in the next year, or two?
Novels. A 2nd Dan black belt in ju-jitsu. More novels. Acceptance speeches? And of course, keeping my three kids and my stressed wife from imploding.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
Works in particular? Oh, I’m terrible at keeping up. Seriously. My ability to read is limited by the fact that I’m kind of leading three full lives at once: post-grad student, full-time dad, writer, martial arts instructor (and student), and steward of a 50 acre rural property. I do read, but it’s in snatches. I expect, for example, to get in about half an hour this afternoon when I take my three kids and two of the neighbours’ into Launceston, to go to gymnastics and trampoline. I’ll drop off the kids, go and post a letter, then come back, sit up in the stands, and read until it’s time to drive the 50k back home again. Then I’ll cook dinner, get everyone set up for bed… and after that, I get to do some writing, and probably some reading for the MA. Literary Theory of Genre is surprisingly boring.
What I will say is that I’m delighted by the ongoing strength of small press in Australia. I keep seeing new anthologies full of stories that would rate, anywhere in the world. Soon as I finish the novella I’m doing (later this evening, or early tomorrow) I’ve really got to turn around and put out a half dozen or so short stories, I think. I do love short stories.
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
Two years after AussieCon… yeah. Look, the changes in Aus Spec Fic are, by and large, the changes we’re seeing everywhere. The woolly mammoth in the room (no mere elephants for spec fiction!) is the rise of the e-book, and the increasing willingness of both writers and readers to thumb their noses at the strictures of mainstream publishers.
At the same time, the increasing stranglehold of the Amazon/Kindle ogre is a real worry. Their pricing policies are… dubious at best. Then there’s the issue of outright plagiarism amongst self-published stuff in the Kindle morass. There’s more, but those two issues alone are enough to make me extremely fearful of Kindle’s rising influence.
On a more positive note, I think the GenreCon happening in Sydney is a very interesting development. Around the world, sales of genre fiction (including romance and crime) are now actually outstripping conventional fiction. At the same time, the old genres have been fractally disintegrating. There’s a new XXXXXX-punk every week, it seems. I’m very upbeat about the idea of bringing genre readers and genre writers together, regardless of the so-called boundaries. Of course, I can’t actually MAKE it to this GenreCon… but maybe they’ll have another? Hopefully, anyway.