Interview by Belle McQuattie.
Sylvia Kelso lives in North Queensland, Australia. She often writes fantasy and SF set in analogue or alternate Australian settings, and likes to tinker with moral swords-and-sorcery and elements of mythology. She has published 8 fantasy novels, including Amberlight and The Moving Water, which were finalists for best fantasy novel in the Australian Aurealis genre fiction awards. Her short stories have appeared in Australia and the US, including anthologies from DAW and 12th Planet Press, and the online e-zines Luna Station Quarterly and Eternal Haunted Summer. Her novella “Spring in Geneva,” a riff on Frankenstein, appeared in October 2013 with Aqueduct Press. Her most recent publications are the related fiction “Dear James,” in the award-winning Australian anthology Letters to Tiptree, in August 2015, and another short story, “A Moment in Laramidia,” which appeared in May 2016 in the anthology Lightships and Sabres, from Wolfsinger Press.
The fourth book in the Amberlight series, Dragonfly, moves onto the next generation. Can you share your motivation behind the generation jump, and some of the themes we’re going to encounter in the story?
To tell truth, “I” had no conscious motivation for Dragonfly. From Amberlight on, it was the Black Gang, aka my creative component, who kept asking, what happened after that?
For Dragonfly, “that” was the astonishing birth/baby at the end of Source. The Black Gang still wanted to know, who was she, who or what would she be? And it took them four years to evolve the replies. But one day a “ground zero reverie” recurred to Therkon, the Dhasdeini crown prince and minor character from Source – and next thing I had the opening sentence of Dragonfly.
So this is most obviously a coming-of-age story, but for a highly unusual adolescent, and at base a traditional, heterosexual-duo lovestory – except not quite. Most openly, it’s the next instalment of answers to the question of the whole Amberlight series: what or who and why is the qherrique now?
Recently you contributed “Due Care and Attention” to Cranky Ladies of History, about Lilian Cooper. Out of all the cranky ladies out there, what was it that drew you to her? How did you first come across her?
I first heard about Lilian from Ariella Van Luyn, also at James Cook University, who wrote a story about Lilian’s house in her own Creative Writing PhD. But once found Lilian attracted me instantly. She worked in Brisbane, my state capital, she was path-breaker for women in medicine and with cars, and she was not just a “a character,” in Aussie terms, but the epitome of crankiness. Anecdotes of her retorts abound, and she was also notoriously profane, even as a field surgeon for a women’s medical corps in World War I. I’ve been chipped about cursing too freely almost all my life. Who else would my Cranky Lady be?
What will the next project be after Dragonfly is released? Will you continue on with the Amberlight series, or do you have other works planned?
I think the Amberlight series is now concluded; at least, the Black Gang have stopped asking, what happened then? But I do have a number of other projects, currently in progress, a novella sequel to “Spring in Geneva.” I’ve also finished other shorter fiction, including a 22K novella called “Death and the Maiden,” a prequel to the second Everran book, The Moving Water, which was accepted for an anthology called Maidens and Magic. So the next immediate project will be the editing and proofing for that.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
Somewhat narcissistic, but I really loved the range of notable women’s amazingly variant approaches to James Tiptree Jr. in Letters to Tiptree. I felt totally honoured to have been published in such an award-winning anthology, and in such company.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
There are many authors I would lerve to sit next to, but whatinhell would I say! One ancient author I would want to badger anyhow would. be Polybius, over his missing history books on the Second Punic War. One live author I could sit next to would be my good mate Lois McMaster Bujold. We have taken a few car trips together, and we never have any trouble finding conversation topics, or differing without ending at daggers drawn. Especially if I could. lure her into returning to Australia, a long plane trip with Lois would. be just fine.