Interview by Matthew Summers.
Rjurik Davidson is a freelance writer. He has written short stories, essays, reviews and screenplays. His novel, The Stars Askew was released in July 2016. Chicago Review of Books recommended it as one of the best 10 SF novels to read over summer and Pop Mythology says, it “fleshes out his wonderfully bizarre world, a world that blends familiar elements of history and mythology in unique ways.”
Rjurik’s first novel, Unwrapped Sky, was published by Tor Books in April 2014. Sci Fi Now claims it can “go toe-to-toe with China Miéville’s best.” Kirkus Reviews calls it “Impressively imagined and densely detailed.” His screenplay The Uncertainty Principle (co-written with Ben Chessell) is currently in development.
Rjurik can be found at www.rjurik.com and tweets as @rjurikdavidson.
What are you working on right now? Anything exciting?
I’ve always got a hundred exciting things to work on. Of course, the challenge is to get the time to work on them. I’m always admiring of really prolific writers who also have other jobs (I’ve been full-time writing, but a lot is work-for-hire). But, on the list of things to do, I’ll give you one: I’m going to write a book of essays on science fiction and science fiction writers. That should be fun. As you may know, I’ve actually written several books worth of essays on SF film and other non-fiction pieces, some of which were written for their time, but this new project will be much more universal, and lasting, I hope.
Your work is often linked to the ‘New Weird’ movement, with its wonderful incorporation of elements from fantasy, science fiction, and horror. Do you find yourself consciously working towards writing ‘weird’ stories, or is that something you just do naturally?
There’s a natural aesthetic that appeals to me, and to weird writers too. That’s to break the form. The aim is to ask, what is it that the form cannot do, or is afraid of? What has never been done? What is the opposite of the genre cliché? So I like to refuse the obvious in my stories. The story, ‘Nighttime in Caeli-Amur’ is a good example. In that story, I tried to break every preconceived notion of what fantasy was about. It’s not about heroes, but about a disappointed middle manager; the action is not violence, but it’s disturbing; his dilemma is slightly unresolved.
I also like to press language to its limits. How do you describe the indescribable? How do you think the unthinkable? I suppose it’s a development of the sorts of paradoxical ideas that kids like to think about: What is the end of eternity?; If god is all powerful, can he create something so large he can’t lift it? I like those. But I’m also interested in modernism — the avant garde, the Dadaists and constructivists, the surrealists – and so on. They too were interested in breaking form. The reason is, that new forms are indications that a new content is arising. We need new forms to speak new things. As the world changes, then our forms must change too. Otherwise our art becomes worn out and tired, the empty utterances of long forgotten truths.
What stories do you want to tell in the years to come?
Oh, that’s a nice question. There are about 30 novel ideas in my ideas folder and a hundred or more short stories waiting to be written. There are particular settings that are crying to me: antiquity (Alexandria, Pompeii – but a fantastical/Sf version); a weird 1920s Berlin (in the film industry) and St Petersburg (among the avant garde artists); a future that is about 50 years from now, when the earth is in a transition between our environmentally destructive society and something better, though it’s still too late; an epic weird fantasy. The stories are yet to come together yet, My other interests remain the same: how do you lead a moral life in an immoral society? How much choice do each of us have and how much of our decisions are structured by the forces around us?
What Australian work have you loved recently?
There are some fantastic writers in Australia at the moment. Within SF, I loved Andre Macrae’s Trucksong and Angela Slatter’s Vigil. Two very fine and very different works. Andrew’s is about a post-apocalyptic Australia with AI truck. Angela’s a beautifully crafted urban fantasy set in Brisbane.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip? Why?
See the problem about this question is that most authors are disappointments. There’s nothing worse than meeting a hero. Still, I’d kinda like to sit next to Homer. Then I’d get him to recite the Odyssey as I try to fall asleep (he’d keep me up, no doubt). Otherwise, Sappho would be cool. She could perform her poems too – especially the lost or forgotten ones. After all, they’re there to entertain me, right?