Anna Tambour’s recently published stories include “The Dog Who Wished He’d Never Heard of Lovecraft” inLovecraft eZine, “Cardoons” in Phantasmagoriummagazine, and “The Oyster and Alice O.” in Flurb. Some upcoming stories are in: Light Touch Paper, Stand Clear edited by Edwina Harvey and Simon Petrie (Peggie Bright Books); A Season in Carcosa edited by Joseph S. Pulver (Miskatonic Books); Bloody Fabulous edited by Ekaterina Sedia (Prime); and Memoryville Blues edited by Peter Crowther and Nick Gevers (PS Publishing).
Your novel, Crandolin, is going to be released from Chomu Press in November. Can you tell us a bit about the novel and what inspired you to write it?
If that bit were one word: irresistibilities.
What inspired? The opportunity. Fortunately, though it didn’t seem so then, the editor who asked, was soon passed by the corporate digestion.
You have such a unique voice, how does where you live imbue your writing?
Thanks for the kind compliment which doesn’t deserve a rant in return, so maybe have a coffee elsewhere while this runs:
The tragedy is what happens to the many unique voices floating around. They mostly fall into silence while the air reverberates with endless imitations of popular hits. I’ve been fortunate – sometimes by having received constructive rejections; and sometimes by being lucky enough to work with great editors, the latest being the stupendously stimulating Quentin S. Crisp at Chomu, a publisher whose every book could be considered ‘unique’. And by the way, a rejection can be a tonic; it’s the submissions that receive less response than SETI, especially those submissions that have been solicited, that can ruin a writer; they can be as eloquently misleading as a turned-around signpost.
I’ve lived in lots of places (including two doors away from a bikie gang that in their geriatric insomnia, played from 12:30 to 5am nightly [at 5000 decibels], a rolling tape of the theme from Easy Rider). But yes, living in a place uncluttered by humans constantly slaps me with how little I know, and pricks me, often literally – about this roiling mass of curiosities and contrarinesses that is the world. But it doesn’t matter where one physically lives these days. Almost everyone has the ability to shut off observation and contemplation, the more we are Connected; and the more we accept that to write, one must firstly, be taught, and secondly, write every day. The greatest unwritten modern horror story is that of the auditorium in which the victims of creative writing are laid out without their consent, probed and dissected (in front of underage children, no less!). To then think that any student would want, afterwards, to love these defiled creatures is a fiction that is oddly, not a subject in any story I’ve read, but deserves Poe.
And then we come to the oft-quoted Chekhov Imperative: “You must acquire words and turns of speech, and for this you must write every day.” The more one has to follow the dictate to write every day to, in our pumping age, “exercise the muscle”, the less one has a chance to have something to write about because who has the time to live, to observe, to feel, to leap outside of the self when one is tied to the self-centred goal of looking at one’s muscle work? Writing becomes being a writer, a narcissism of our age. What isn’t admitted by those who quote Chekhov, was how much dross he wrote. What makes a great writer is not writing but not writing. A story should in my opinion, be a distillation, a sometimes messy explosion – something that has come out as a result of brewing. And better than any writing course are life experiences, especially two things: failure and cross dressing (and if the shoes rub, all the better). Writers who haven’t failed (and I don’t mean just getting rejection slips for writing!) tend to be shallow; and writers to whom characters are components, are only themselves, mere machines producing at best, unpreservable junk food. The writers we love, lived everywhere from Mannaville to hell itself; but for the most part, followed their own unprescriptions.
What are you currently working on and what would you love to write in the future?
I’m working on another story for Mike Davis, for whom I had great fun writing “The Dog Who Wished He’d Never Heard of Lovecraft”. His magazine is something I admire in every way. It’s not only fun, but presented with style and an eye to detail. And every story gets the royal treatment – a superb audio version too. The fact that I think this magazine is tops despite Lovecraft makes me doubly glad that Mike’s taste has run away with itself, craving other authors.
And in the future? something for noses.
What Australian works are have you loved recently?
I’m a great fan of Adam Browne, having first come across a story by him (with John Dixon) in Andromeda Spaceways. His first novel Pyrotechnicon: Being a True Account of the Further Adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac, by Himself (dec’d), will be released by Coeur de Leon in September, so I hope that people will snap it up at its launch at Conflux. Adam has an unerring eye for time and place, and we both share a great interest in the history of science and natural history. He is also a subtle satirist, usually when one least expects it. And he’s a damnably fine visual artist.
Kathleen Jennings is another writer who is blossoming. She is such a disgustingly talented visual artist that her charm as a writer might be overlooked. Look for stories by her, and buy Steampunk!, published by Small Beer Press, for her comic.
Jennings has just finished the first and maybe second or third draft of her first novel, and I look forward to its release by some lucky publisher. She has an emotional depth combined with a deceptive lightness that is unique, and that would be as fascinating in 200 years.
I’m also not only very much looking forward to reading the novel that Ben Peek is working on, but hoping that it gets an international readership that Peek deserves. Although he could bore anyone with details of structure, his fiction shows nothing of that pedantry. Instead, he is what the bloated Thing maybe was, before Mieville’s hungry Ego hadn’t, when he was very young, mistaken him for a vanilla shake. What I admire about Peek is that his passion about society and the people that are its components are real, yet this fierce interest doesn’t hinder him from writing lucid, visceral fiction of great power and thought-provoking resonance – minus melodrama, manifesto, and Peek.
Thoraiya Dyer epitomises the ideal writer, in my eyes. She has so many interests, talents (that she hones), and could be called to be an expert witness in several fields. I especially love her fiction when it relates to science and the natural world. Yet she is always invisible in her fiction, and is like many people of true worth – so modest that to open her up, you need an oyster knife. Two recent Dyer stories are: “Complaints Department” in Nature and“The War of the Gnome and the Mountain Devil”. She is also one writer I’d love to spend some time with. I think that we might also share other interests. Psst, Thoraiya, just between us, do you also love a great feeling, perfectly weighted, sharp as bile – knife?
Marc McBride won an Aurealis a few years ago for his (written and illustrated) World of Monsters, a picture-lover’s delight and a mischievously informative mix of fantasy and science that should be in French, Italian, German, Spanish, Czech, and Lunar editions, at least (I’ve nabbed the rights to Asteroid*). The book he’s working on now is one of the most captivating stories I’ve ever read, gorgeously illustrated. It is only one of a whole series, if my boot has any power. I can’t tell you what it’s about, but I will say that it’s bad for morality, being one of those books that adults buy for kids, and steal.
And in case anyone has missed the fact, I should say here that Kaaron Warren is a great classic writer. Her “All You Can Do is Breathe” in Blood and Other Cravings edited by Ellen Datlow is one of the most unforgettable stories Ive ever read – and should, at the least, have jumped the wall to land in The Best Australian Short Stories. Waaren has a cornucopia-worth of books out from publishers around the world, but one of her best is her collection Dead Sea Fruit, by an Australian publisher that has become one of the world’s best independents: Ticonderoga.
Two years on from Aussiecon 4, what do you think are some of the biggest changes to the Australian Spec Fic scene?
People around the world are enjoying Australian-made creations without knowing or caring that they were made here. And Australians are confident enough now to create works about living here, such as your own anthology, Sprawl.
One change that I wish I could say has occurred, is distribution of our fine independents beyond our shores. Winning a publishing prize in the US is a cruel honour if Australian books might as well swim to reach readers. And e-books are not the answer any more than a picture of a kiss is consummation.