Interview by Stephanie Gunn.
Jack Bridges publishes queer romance as Laney Cairo, and speculative fiction under his own name. He is best known for his medical romance novel, Bad Case of Loving You (written as Laney Cairo), which romps through raunchy sex, socialised medicine and the impacts of industrial action in the health care industry. For his day job, Jack teaches research methodology to university students. Jack can be found at http://www.jacklanebridges.com and http://www.laneycairo.com
Congratulations on your Aurealis Awards short listing for Blood and Ink (for Best Science Fiction Novella). Would you like to share some of the inspiration for Blood and Ink, and how did it feel to be shortlisted for the award?
The settings for Blood and Ink are all local places I know well. The story sparked for me after walking through Jorgensen Park in Kalamunda, where smooth grey granite boulders lift up out of the red gravel soil and through the bushland. The boulders feel alive, when touched, as though they are breathing and moving, only on a timescale too huge for humans to notice. That was the initial ‘what if?’ for Blood and Ink, and I wrote the draft of the first section of the story standing up at a counter in the SF bookstore I used to work at. The story grew with time, acquiring new chapters, but it stayed firmly fixed in places I knew.
I was delighted to be short-listed for an Aurealis! Especially in the Science Fiction Novella category! I knew Blood and Ink was solid, but getting this kind of validation from a panel of judges was exhilarating. As primarily a romance writer, I’ve always felt a bit like my writing wasn’t quite as serious or as respectable as Real Science Fiction (implied scare quotes and all), and an Aurealis short-listing means I’m definitely respectable.
You write under two names, as Jack Bridges and Laney Cairo. You are also open about being a transgender writer. How do you feel that the exploration of the world of speculative fiction and the world of being transgender intersect? Do you feel that writing speculative fiction has been an aid in the your own journey to your identity?
I didn’t actually want to be open about being trans*! It didn’t work out that way, in part because I love attending spec fic conventions and value the community I have found through them. The cost of privacy would have been giving up attending conventions and belonging to the spec fic community in Australia.
Oddly, perhaps, it’s not been spec fic writing that has been an important part of my identity journey, but romance writing. There’s an entire decade of my life, at least, where the keyboard and screen have been the way I tested out the possibilities of how I might live. And the possibilities I explored through writing weren’t fantastic or technological, necessarily, but relationship-based.
I can see strong connections between transhumanism and being trans*. Being trans* is punitively expensive, in more than cash. It has health costs and career costs and personal costs. If I’m willing to give informed consent to these costs and go ahead and modify my body radically in order to be happy, or at least, less sad, then other people also get to change their physical form too, in all sorts of ways that are recreational or functional or experimental, in pursuit of more efficient function, or longer life, or more fun. And maybe those changes are going to be so profound that they stop being human.
What are your plans for future works?
I’m continuing to write romance fiction, mostly short stories, and all exploring gender and gender performance.
What Australian work have you loved recently?
I’ve mostly been reading unpublished manuscripts recently. The next wave of Australian romance writers is incredibly talented. I’ve been overawed by the standard of the writing and the freshness of the stories.
For published work, I’m currently reading Newt’s Emerald, by Garth Nix, and it’s making me ridiculously happy by meeting both my Regency romance needs and being a delightful fantasy adventure.
Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?
Ellen Kushner. I’ve met Ellen a few times at spec fic conventions, and would love the chance to have a long chat with her about her work (as long as she was okay with talking, and didn’t want to just be silent). Ellen’s novel Swordspoint remains one of my all time favourites, a beautifully realised alternate history/fantasy of manners with queer characters. I am so pleased that Ellen, and other people, are continuing to write in the Swordspoint universe.