Anna Tambour is a writer of weird and strange fiction, that doesn’t fit into categories. Her novel, Crandolin, was nominated for the World Fantasy Award in 2013. She has written a large list of short fiction, and her most recent work, published in 2014, is The Walking-Stick Forest. She was kind enough to answer my questions for Snapshot 2014.
1. Tansy Rayner Roberts said on Galactica Suburbia, “There’s weird fiction, and then there’s new weird, and then there’s Anna Tambour.” Do you try for your stories to puzzle people as to fit?
In my second year at school, I got an almost-fail at “Listening and Following Directions” and have probably gone downhill from there. But the thing is, reality doesn’t fit. Neither, I am delighted to say, does the unifying theory of the universe fall into line as anything other than an attractive theory.
2. Your current short story, The Walking-Stick Forest, was published on Tor.com. Is it a different experience, publishing online, compared to publishing in a traditional book or magazine? Do you think there is a growing audience for online short fiction?
“It is Tor.com that takes the crown as reigning champion of science-fiction magazines. With a team that includes the respected editors Ellen Datlow and Ann VanderMeer, its stories’ subjects range from anthropological zombies to teenage hackers.”
— Damien Walter, “A digital renaissance for the science fiction short story”, The Guardian, 13 June 2014
Tor.com not only publishes some of the best writers but has enviable viewer stats—and the additional pull of commissioning some of the best artists in the world, under the superb art direction of Irene Gallo. Karla Ortiz’s gorgeous painting for “The Walking-Stick Forest” has already gained more praise and views than anything I’ve ever written, so there will be a percentage of admirers of this picture who will actually read my story. The fact that the content of Tor.com is free to read though we as creators are paid well, makes me grateful to the likes of Ben Peek whose Children trilogy is being published by Tor; the sales of ‘traditional’ books such as these subsidise the free online content. Tor and a growing number of sophisticated online magazines are showing a confidence unseen since the days of Elsevier’s HMS Beagle: The BioMednet Magazine and the Ellen Datlow-edited Sci Fiction.
But audience size doesn’t interest me as much as a degree of international and socioeconomic accessibility. I’ve always asked for my short fiction to be put online as a free read if at all possible. A sampler (full-story, not some annoying teaser) always helps to sell a publication is how I lobby—but selfishly, I have always written for an international readership and this is the most likely way for my stories and readers to meet. To that end, I have also put online the first chapters of my novels.
3. Twelfth Planet Press will be publishing your next collection. How do you feel about this project? Are there any other projects coming soon?
I am an admirer of this press, which is both ambitious and adventurous. Every small collection in the Twelve Planets project is superb, larger single-author collections such Deborah Biancotti’s A Book of Endings are the equal of any lauded literary press, and I especially like both the thought behind and the execution of the Doubles series, such as Robert Shearman’s Roadkill with its back against Tansy Rayner Roberts Siren Beat.
That my particular collection is a natural fit was proved to me by the fact that Alisa Krasnostein not only didn’t balk at but has embraced the collection’s title: The Finest Ass in the Universe. She’s also great fun to work with.
Of other projects that aren’t still under wraps, coming soonest is “The Old Testacles” in the September issue of The Cascadia Subduction Zone, the quarterly published by Aqueduct Press. Two more upcomings are a short story in a Postscripts anthology (PS Publishing); and a novelette in Asimov’s.
4. What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’ve just read Fearful Symmetries edited by Ellen Datlow, and three Australian works are standouts. I hope to meet the characters in Kaaron Warren’s “Bridge of Sighs” again in a novel or two. I’ve already raved about Garth Nix’s story, the last in the anthology, “Shay Corsham Worsted”, a classic that should be widely anthologised; and Terry Dowling’s “The Four Darks” is every bit as strong and nightmare-inducing as his novel Clowns at Midnight that I also love.
All the stories in Lucy Sussex’s Thief of Lives (Twelfth Planet Press); Thoraiya Dyer’s “Human Strandings and the Role of the Xenobiologist” (Clarkesworld).
“Sweet Subtleties” by Lisa L. Hannet (Clarkesworld Magazine).
I hate the title but love the book: Adam Brown’s Other Stories and Other Stories (Satalyte Press). He is, in addition to being a most versatile storyteller, quite a wonderful visual artist.
An image of mine perches on the cover of Andrew McKiernan’s collection Last Year, When We Were Young (Satalyte Press). I feel that this is a privilege to be associated with this highly sensitive, low-key collection.
Rupetta by Nike Sulway (Tartarus Press) fully deserves all its accolades.
I loved even the galleys of Janeen Webb’s collection, Death at the Blue Elephant. Nick Stathopoulos’ gorgeously fun cover is a typical one for him—a joy to delve into. But that isn’t the only work from Ticonderoga Press that I’m enamored of. TP should be up for a world award. I’m particularly looking forward to their limited-edition Black-Winged Angels by Angela Slatter, with stunning paper-cut artwork by Kathleen Jennings, who is, imo, one of the world’s finest living illustrators.
Two novels that I read recently that I think excellent but that you might not have come across, are: Luck in the Greater West by Damian McDonald (ABC Books), a compelling and gut-true story set in Sydney’s West; and A Tiger in Eden by Chris Flynn (Text Publishing), a novel that is hard to put down, but the telling, in the first-person voice, is the best I’ve read in years. Flynn really lost himself in this character, to our advantage.
For versatility, I just love Simon Brown’s contribution to Coastal Chef: Culinary Art of Seaweed & Algae in the 21stCentury, edited by Claudine Tinellis (Harbour Publishing House). The acknowledgments thank him for “your judicious contributions to and edits of the largely lawyerly-like ramblings of our editor. . . You made our words sparkle.” The books reads and looks like a feast.
Of special note: I have greatly enjoyed both the collaboration and independent voices of Lisa L. Hannet and Angela Slatter. Collaborators often don’t get the praise they deserve.
My favourite line by any writer, not only an Australian, is this one just emitted by Ben Peek in his interview by David Barnett on Tor.com (in answer to Are you a plotter and planner, or more freestyle?) “I’m a rewriter.”
5. Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
The publishing industry is like weather. We both exist in harmony with nature. As for five years from now, I could speculate, but then that would be fiction and I’d rather write spec fic about others.