Interviewed by Matthew Summers
Jack Dann is a multi-award winning, and best-selling American author best known for his science fiction. An editor and writing teacher, Jack has lived in Australia since 1994. He has published over seventy books, in the majority of cases as editor or co-editor of story anthologies in the science fiction, fantasy and horror genres. He has published nine novels, numerous shorter works of fiction, essays and poetry and his books have been translated into thirteen languages. His work, which includes fiction in the science fiction, fantasy, horror, magical realism and historical and alternative history genres, has been compared to Jorge Luis Borges, Roald Dahl, Lewis Carroll, J.G. Ballard and Philip K. Dick.
Jack Dann, welcome to Snapshot 2016. What are you working on right now? Can you tell us something about it?
Well, I’m always working on a handful of projects. You’ve no doubt heard that I’m spearheading an Australian imprint of PS Publishing called…PS Australia. The first volume on the list is a showcase anthology entitled Dreaming in the Dark. Pub date is August. So I’m working on the new PS Australia line, and I’m writing (of course!) <Grin>. I’ve just finished a novel entitled Shadows in the Stone, completed a PhD, and thought I’d work on some short fiction; but the imagination has its own rules. So I found myself working on an improbable novel called The Crystal Hand about the adventures of two famous sorcerers (Fulginius Reflectis Goldstein (!) and John Dee) who just might remind the readers of borscht belt comedians. The novel already has jabberwocks, dragons, waterfalls that flow up instead of down, talking mirrors, and 1940s film stars…and that just the first chapter! My last novel really stretched me: it’s an exploration of the interface between alternate history and fantasy and the limits of alternate history. Shadows is set in the renaissance, as was my novel The Memory Cathedral. The novel I’m working on right now is pure authorial escapism. I hope it will be as much fun to read as it is to write. And I’m also planning on putting together a few nonfiction works on the subject of alternate history.
You’ve have written and edited over 65 books throughout your writing career. I’m curious, how do you feel you’ve evolved as a writer over that period of time?
Alas, it’s over seventy-five books at this point. For me, writing has always been about evolution, learning craft, stretching limits. I’ve been several writers over my career, and I expect to be a few different writers in future as I expand my sensorium, as my dreams, desires, and goals shift and change. It’s an off-road journey at breakneck speed, and I’ve never been able to extrapolate where the hell its going to take me. I can tell you, though, that I’ve never been bored…and I don’t expect that aspect to change!
What stories are on the horizon for you?
Well, I’ve written an original story called “Trainspotting in Winesburg” for my next short-story collection, Concentration. The collection’s theme is the holocaust, and “Trainspotting” depicts a future dystopian Australia. I’m working on a story with Barry Malzberg, even while I have an idea that’s been nagging at me, coaxing me, whispering to me with the narrative voice of a young married woman, ostensibly a housewife living in upstate New York who is a virtual combat pilot flying drones on bombing missions in the Near East. Actually, that idea first occurred to me when I was killing time in the airport in Dubai. There are so many story ideas I’d like to write. Mercifully, I won’t expand any further or we’d be taking up pages instead of a single paragraph. And I can’t discuss the story I’m working on with Barry…yet!
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Ah, that’s the hidden trick question, one that can only get me into trouble. There are so many Australian authors that knock me out…and recently, too. So here’s my answer: take a look at Dreaming in the Dark. You’ll find the work I’ve loved – and love right this minute – right in there.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plan trip? Why?
Okay. You asked. Benjamin Franklin. He’s always been a hero and role model for me. (Yes, I know, I’m certainly no Ben Franklin; but what the hell: better to fail at a good level then not try at all <Grin>). I’m also researching Franklin for a historical novel that’s been, er, calling to me. I can hear him chuckling, even as I write this; and it’s interesting that you frame this last question in terms of a long plane trip. When I traveled by plane in my teenage years, I actually used to imagine that Franklin was sitting beside me, and I’d imagine what he’d say as he looked out at the world below through that window. So there you have it. I’m still trying to get on that plane with Ben!