2020 Snapshot: T R Napper

T. R. Napper is a multi-award-winning author, including the Aurealis for best short story. His work has appeared in annual Year’s Best Anthologies, and he has been published in respected genre magazines in the US, the UK, Israel, Austria, Australia, Singapore, and Vietnam.

Before turning to writing, T. R. Napper was an aid worker, having lived throughout Southeast Asia for over a decade delivering humanitarian programs. During this period, he received a commendation from the Government of Laos for his work with the poor. Napper is also a scholar of East and Southeast Asian literature; he received a creative writing doctorate for his thesis: The Dark Century: 1946 – 2046. Noir, Cyberpunk, and Asian Modernity. 

He does not own a cat.

1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

The big one was the release of my debut short story collection, Neon Leviathan, earlier this year. Published by a local mob – Grimdark – it’s a project I had been discussing with the owner/publisher/editor, Adrian Collins for at least two years. I was involved in every aspect of the production, every exhausting detail. Two years of contract negotiations, covers, editing, table of contents, marketing plans, all that. I’m sure Adrian was intensely regretting ever letting me become part of the decision-making process.

And it finally came to fruition, a gorgeous product with excellent cover art and early reviews, a foreword by Adrian Tchaikovsky (Children of Time), a cover quote by Richard Morgan (Altered Carbon). I was going to take this bad boy to the world (inasmuch as a collection by an unknown author can be taken anywhere).

And then the pandemic hit. So in terms of the various launches we had planned – Conflux, WorldCon NZ, others – they were all canned, and I couldn’t get the collection out into local bookstores. That was a bummer. But who cares, you know? The pandemic came and I stopped thinking about this shit for a while. I stopped writing, briefly, for the first time in years. There were bigger concerns – jobs, businesses, and lives devastated across the country and the world.

But should I really be dismissing writing? Hasn’t this crisis shown us the value of art? As many have noted: how did people survive / are surviving lockdown? Well, they read, they listened, and they binge-watched.

I suppose I fit into this, even if in only the smallest of ways. I’ve had a fair few reviewers talk about how relevant my collection is today, how prescient it is. Such comments have continued during the pandemic, noting that the world after Covid-19 will be more cyberpunk – and more like my fiction – than ever. The ongoing concerns of my work – the rise of China, the disintegration of the US, the surveillance state, technological control, climate change, staggering inequality, trauma, and war – will only become more strikingly relevant as the events of 2020, and beyond, play out. This is not a good thing. I don’t want this to be our timeline. But it has happened. We are living in a cyberpunk present.

But anyway, I definitely digressed there. Apologies. I don’t get out much.

2. What has been the best publishing experience of your career so far?

There are a few highlights. Getting a story published in the venerable Asimov’s was a buzz (it was five years ago, and I hadn’t been writing that long. When I look back now I realise how lucky I was getting accepted there). My breakthrough first short story sale to Interzone. Getting a UK agent (then getting dumped after he couldn’t sell my novel), then getting a second – and far better – UK agent John Jarrold. Oh shit – the Aurealis Award. Can’t forget that.

These are all great. But look, I of course have to rate my experience getting Neon Leviathan published as #1. Within that, the best part was getting a cover quote from Richard Morgan, author of Altered Carbon. I first read that novel maybe ten years ago, and it blew me away. It was before I started writing, and I thought to myself that the novel showed cyberpunk was a sub-genre that could still be new and relevant (how right I was).

To have Richard Morgan then agree to blurb my collection all these years later, with a long effusive quote praising the work, wherein he called the stories “achingly beautiful”, well, that has to be a highlight, doesn’t it?

3. Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge? 

Kaaron Warren is well-known in the local scene, both in Australia and New Zealand. While she has had some international recognition – for example by being guest of honour at World Fantasy Con – I feel she has never got the break she deserves for her work. She’s a top quality horror writer, who never panders to the reader (I don’t read horror usually, but I read Kaaron’s work). She continues to write excellent stories that, quite frankly, should have found a bigger audience by now.



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