2020 Snapshot: Dirk Strasser

Dirk Strasser has won several Australian Publisher Association Awards and a Ditmar for Best Professional Achievement. His short story, “The Doppelgänger Effect”, appeared in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, Dreaming Down Under (Tor). Dirk’s fantasy trilogy The Books of Ascension – Zenith, Equinox and Eclipse – (Pan Macmillan) and short stories have been translated into several languages. His screenplay of his most recent novel Conquist was a Finalist at the 2019 Cinequest Film & Creativity Festival, Richmond International Film Festival, the Fresh Voices Original Screenplay Competition and the Byron Bay Film Festival. He has co-edited Australia’s premiere speculative fiction magazine Aurealis for over 120 issues and founded the Aurealis Awards. www.dirkstrasser.com.

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

My novel Conquist is being serialised in Aurealis throughout 2020. It’s the story of a driven conquistador and his men in search of Inca gold who find themselves caught between the warring forces of demonic natives and angelic entities in a world whose morality proves to be less black and white than it initially appears.

My fascination with the conquistadors and their conquest of the Incas goes way back to my childhood when I read Hergé’s graphic novel Tintin and Prisoners of the Sun. I spent many weeks in hospital at one point and I lost count of how many times I reread it. Many years later I trekked the Inca trail to Machu Picchu in Peru before it was crowded with tourists (thanks to the Shining Path terrorists being disbanded just six months earlier), and it felt at times as if we were exploring some new territory.

The story moves from 1538 Peru to a fantasy world with a swollen sun, crimson skies and flame fountains. The world is literally free of all gods, and all its inhabitants must rely solely on their own decisions and actions.

Conquist is a novel about obsessions: their power, their destructiveness, their contradictions. Obsessions come in many guises: the lust for gold, the desire for fame, the yearning to have your words read…

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

A number of years ago we made the decision for Aurealis to go global and we haven’t looked back since. It turned out to be a resounding success, but we agonised over it for a long time. Aurealis was Australia’s fantasy and science fiction magazine. We had ‘Australia’ in our title.  It was the reason for our existence. The point of everything. How could we open up to submissions from around the world without being swamped? Wouldn’t we become just another SF magazine? Wouldn’t we be trampling over our own aims? Wouldn’t every overseas story we published just be taking away a spot from an Australian story?

And yet, we felt it was time we opened up Aurealis to a wider readership. We wanted the rest of the world to see the quality of the Australian and New Zealand stories we were publishing. We no longer wanted to publish just for ourselves. And if we wanted the world to notice us, we needed to publish stories from outside Australia.

So we came up with a way. We decided to continue to publish the same number of Australian/NZ stories per year, with the only difference being we now simply added an overseas story to each issue.

And it worked! We’ve published some high-quality stories from every corner of the globe to sit alongside our high-quality local stories. We opened up to the world while keeping our unique Australian flavour. In 2020 we’re publishing more fiction and non-fiction than ever in our 30-year history. Subscriptions are up and things are buzzing like never before.

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

I’m loving the stories by up-and-coming New Zealand writer James Rowland who we’ve been publishing in Aurealis. The most recent one, ‘Arachne’s Web’ is steeped in Greek mythology and appears in our July 2020 All New Zealand Worldcon issue, Aurealis #132. The first story of his that we published was ‘The Planck Harvest’ in Aurealis #102 in 2017, a beautiful story of subtle stillness featuring a magical farm with just a tinge of science fiction to it. His ‘Inheritance’ in Aurealis #124 is a classy tale entwining art and magic, history and conjecture. My favourite, though, is ‘The Glassblower’s Peace’ in Aurealis #114 where James conjures some unusual magic in Renaissance Venice, one of favourite periods in history. He’s definitely someone to watch.

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