Andrew Macrae is a writer, editor and musician. He works full-time running his own freelance copywriting and editing business called Magic Typewriter. He plays in a three-piece instrumental rock band called The Television Sky. He is very handsome.
1) While I know you’re a progressive thinker, there’s something old fashioned in the way you’ve approached your own art (your typewriter obsession at the top of the list). What is it about the old and the musty and the rusted that attracts you?
I like typewriters and fountain pens, vinyl records and valve amplifiers and vintage guitars – things that have had a life before they came into mine. They have ghosts, these things. Their character has been changed through use; they’ve gone brown with the touch of others’ hands. They speak with a voice of their own, too, and they force you to interact with them on their own terms. I like the way these objects persist even when the conditions that created them have passed away; the way the people who possessed them have gone from the earth yet still possess them. These are things that find their own uses for the street, if you can get out of the way long enough to let them.
2) I’m listening to The Television Sky’s first album, We Trust That The Moon Shall Guide Us, will I write these questions. I’m no music expert, as my wife will attest to, but each of the instrumental pieces are not only beautiful but they seem to brim with a sense of hope, with maybe a tinge of melancholy. Was that the intent?
We were definitely trying to imbue the pieces with emotional content. Because we don’t have a singer or lyrics, we work very hard to communicate different colours of emotion and patterns of light and shadow. We write soundtracks for movies that will never be made—and the great thing about instrumental music is that it’s up to the listener to create the narrative and evoke their own imagery. We’re working on material for our second record, which we will release next year. It’s a strange thing to be in this situation at the age of 40, having come to terms with myself and finding such a level of comfort with the process that I just enjoy every second of it.
Have a listen and see what you think:
3) You’re in the process of finishing a creative writing degree. I’ll be honest, I’ve always been a little suspicious as to whether these courses actually develop a persons ability to write. What was your experience been like and should I be less suspicious?
I finished my PhD in creative writing at the end of last year. You’re probably right to be suspicious of creative writing courses. I’m skeptical of their value both in developing one’s writing chops and in furthering scholarship. I think there are better ways to develop as a writer, if that’s your goal. Living a full and adventurous life, for example. Or spending a large chunk of time studying source material, like history or science or literature. You can teach yourself everything you need to know about writing fiction by writing fiction and getting it critiqued.
I had my own reasons for doing the course. It wasn’t really an end in itself for me, it was more about the process, an excuse to spend some time working on a project that I was really into. And what it did give me was a structure and a framework. I probably would have given up on my novel if I didn’t have the pressure to complete the thesis.
And it is a crapload of work. I mean, the stress just cannot be overstated. You have to come up with something that’s an original contribution to knowledge, and to synthesise a whole bunch of primary and secondary material, and find an authoritative scholarly voice with which to articulate a coherent argument about it all. Seriously, there are much less painful and more productive ways to spend half a decade. In the end I finished up with a novel that’s unpublishable in its current form, and a piece of scholarship that was compromised because it had to relate to my own practice. But that was my experience, and I’m sure there are smarter ways of going about it.
4) What Australian works have you loved recently?
Kim Westwood /The Courier’s New Bicycle/
Look out for Rjurik Davidson’s Caeli Amur novel /The Unwrapped Sky/ due out from Tor any year now.
5) Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
I just lurk on the outer edges, really, where I have a small gift shop that sells sweets and salty snacks and diesel and souvenirs from 1980s trucking movies and sometimes people stop by to chat.