2016 Snapshot: Sophie Yorkston

Interview by Helen Stubbs.

SYorkstonSophie is an Australian Shadows Award-winning speculative fiction editor, as well as a writer and research scientist. Her fiction has previously been published by Black Beacon Books and Phantom Feather Press. You can find her reviews and editorial work at SQ Mag and in its associated Best of anthology, Star Quake. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, her blog or on Goodreads.

What are you working on at the moment, both as an editor of SQ Magazine and in your own writing? What does SQ stand for? It’s not Southern Queensland… or *is* it?

I’m currently working behind the scenes on reopening the mag for submissions, and on commissions, of both art and featured authors. SQ Mag prides itself on diversity, and I’m trying to target diverse voices of experience. I am also editing for IFWG Publishing, the sequel to Canadian Shaun Meek’s Lovecraftian detective and enforcer, Dillon in Earthbound and Down.

SQ Mag started out of the idea of publishing IFWG Publishing’s Story Quest competition and its inception was Gerry Huntman’s idea (Head of IFWG Publishing, and of Aussie imprint IFWG Publishing Australia). But I’ve been involved with it since its very beginning as a biannual print magazine called SQ Magazine. So it came out of that idea, but I don’t ever think Gerry or I ever thought of it as Story Quest Magazine. I suppose the short answer is, it means everything and nothing in particular all at once.

In the spare time outside of my day job as a biomedical research coordinator (oh, how I laugh), I am writing and avoiding editing my own shorts where I can and slogging on with my first novel. That poor little beastie is languishing dreadfully.

In 2014 SQ Magazine won an Australian Shadows Award for its Australiana issue. Can you tell us about the stories, or tone, or what it was like to win that award?

It was the second time we had decided to run a special themed issue, and I wanted to celebrate our origins and feature Australia as a setting and with Australian voices. Gerry had more contacts within the industry and asked some of our excellent colleagues to be featured authors. What a dream team we ended up with: Alan Baxter, Kaaron Warren, Sean Williams. Each story had such distinct voices and a range of settings. We had break downs Aussie spec-fic trends and interviews. As well, we received truly excellent non-solicited submissions in that call-out. We had been building for a while but I think that edition put us on the map for many readers and authors. Also, I think its success shows that our Australian stories are of interest locally and internationally and are just begging for more story-telling platforms.

What do you plan to work on next?

I’m planning to work less on editing other people’s novels for a while (once I’ve finished the projects I am currently committed to), to focus on my own writing and submissions. There’s also SQ Mag and the Best of 2015 anthology, Star Quake 4, to finalise. No rest for the wicked.

How is your work changing and developing across your career?

I’ve learnt so much since starting with Gerry and IFWG six years ago, in both technical and industry senses. And as I get older, I think my work has more than an undercurrent of my own feminism and social equality activism, as I grow more confident in my abilities and in myself. I also want to bring out the glorious tragedy of human connections, which have always been so fascinating to me. I’m becoming more aware of the divide of wanting more diverse characters and voices, and what it means to bring them to the world.

 What Australian work have you loved recently?

This is such a hard question to answer. I’m a bit biased but I’ve been working with Kaaron Warren on her latest novel, The Grief Hole, which will be released this month. It’s a powerful story of women, family and it took a writer of nuance like Kaaron to bring it to life. I’ve also got a massive list to get with my next ebook purchase, but I’m trying to finish reading The Forgotten Rebels of the Eureka Stockade by Clare Wright about the silenced women of that historical time and event.

I’m also pretty excited by different storytelling avenues and platforms of different publishers and creators: Tiny Owl Workshop and their Lane of Traders  project (one day Sue Wright and the team will give in and publish me); Emily Craven has been doing some delightful things with digital and collaborative story-telling.

I’m loving the work of other smaller Australian publishing houses: FableCroft and Twelfth Planet Press are releasing some excellent anthologies (and other works as well). Chances are taken on shiny but different ideas that might not be up taken by bigger, more conservative presses. I want to emulate their strong and courageous feminist publishing practices.

Film and television, it’s been really exciting to see diverse writing like Cleverman take centre stage.

Australian speculative fiction is making exciting headway right now, in a variety of mediums.

Which author (living or dead) would you most like to sit next to on a long plane trip and why?

This one has stumped me for a while; for someone reasonably outgoing, I can be pretty shy. Possibly Audrey Niffenger–I’m a big fan of time travel stories and The Time Traveller’s Wife is one of my favourites. Nnedi Okorafor, who I would ask to tell me about her relationship with her character Binti (from the novella of the same name). Or Melina Marchetta or Catherine Jinks, whose work made me laugh and cry and who I have been following since I was about 11 years old.


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