STEPHEN Dedman was born in Adelaide in 1959, but grew up (though many would dispute this) on the outer limits of Perth’s metropolitan area, far enough from a good library that he had to make up his own SF and horror stories. He’s been writing for fun for more than 40 years, and for money for more than 30, selling his first short story in 1977 and his first novel in 1995.
That novel, The Art of Arrow Cutting, was shortlisted for a Bram Stoker Award. His short stories, published in an eclectic range of magazines and anthologies, have won two Aurealisawards and a Ditmar, and been nominated for the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Sidewise Award for Alternate History, the Seiun Award and the Spectrum Award. His latest publication is ‘More Matter, Less Art’ in Midnight Echo #6; his story ‘The Fall’ will be in Exotic Gothic 4. For an up-to-date bibliography, go to www.stephendedman.com.
Has your time as a bookseller revealed any lessons for you as a writer: craft or business wise?
I worked in SF/F bookshops, on and off, from 1985 until 2011, and while it’s occasionally alerted me to the presence of new markets (notably Aphelion and Aurealis) and books that are useful to genre writers, the main thing it’s taught me is that there’s little point in new writers trying to cash in on a trend, be it cyberpunk, epic fantasy, zombies, or sparkly vampires. By the time they’ve finished a draft and sent it anywhere, hundreds of other writers will have done the same. Instead, writers should go to the bookshops and the libraries and look for the books they want to read, and if no-one’s written it yet, write it themselves. Write the stories you would pay to read.
You write across so many genres — are there themes that are present across them that perhaps you’re exploring in different ways?
There are some themes I keep coming back to, beyond the obvious SF and horror themes of possible futures and things that scare us. Outsiders and otherness (most of my protagonists are from somewhere else). Obsession. The relationship, and often the gulf, between our fantasies and what we actually want or would let ourselves do in reality. And dinosaurs and ninja, of course.
Given your enviable back catalogue, are you excited about the possibilities of e-publishing and POD?
Cautiously excited. I’m definitely excited by the idea that no book or short story ever need disappear completely. I’m less optimistic about the prospect of making a living from it; I’m not yet convinced that the long-tail economy isn’t something like the trickle-down effect, all jam tomorrow but never jam today (kudos to Cat Valente, by the way, for telling me that that was a Latin pun).
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m embarrassed to say that since we sold Fantastic Planet bookshop, I haven’t been keeping up with them as much as I should. I was enormously impressed by The Courier’s New Bicycle byKim Westwood, and Felicity Dowker‘s new collection Bread and Circuses is excellent.
What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Mainly that more people are self-publishing, either as hardcopy as e-books, and it seems that the big publishers’ are cutting back on midlist, with print runs getting smaller and backlist going to PoD.