2020 Snapshot: Steven Paulsen

Steven Paulsen’s SF short fiction has appeared in publications around the world. His bestselling children’s horror book, The Stray Cat (Lothian/Hachette), has seen several English and foreign language editions. The best of his short stories — described by Isobelle Carmody as “beautifully written and subtle” — are collected in Shadows on the Wall (IFWG Publishing Australia). He is the winner of an Australian Shadows Award for best Collected Work, a two-time winner of the William Atheling Jr. Award for SF criticism/review, and his short stories have been included in anthologies which have won the World Fantasy Award and the Origins Award. He has been a judge for the Aurealis Awards and the Australasian Horror Writers Association, and he has also written about Australian SF for publications such as: Aurealis; Bloodsongs; Eidolon; Interzone; The Encyclopedia of Fantasy; The St James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers; The Scream Factory; and The MUP Encyclopaedia of Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy. You can visit his website at: www.stevenpaulsen.com

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

My most recent publication is my short story collection, Shadows on the WallWeird Tales of Science Fiction, Fantasy, and the Supernatural. It has a wonderful cover and frontispiece by Shaun Tan, a lovely foreword by Isobelle Carmody, and contains the best of my previously published work, new stories written expressly for the book, plus a novelette co-written with Jack Dann. It’s an eclectic mix of ghost stories, fantasy, Lovecraftian cosmic horror, supernatural horror and science fiction tales. I was thrilled and honoured when it won the Australian Shadows Award for Best Collected Work in 2019.

I’ve also got a longish story called “The Key to Eternity” coming out in Volume 3 of Cthulhu Deep Down Under edited by Steve Proposch, Christopher Sequiera, and Bryce Stevens. The anthology was due for publication this year by IFWG Publishing Australia, but like so many other books it has been delayed because of Covid 19 to early 2021.

Project-wise, I’m currently working on the final draft of a YA historical fantasy novel (with a touch of romance) tentatively called The Dream Weaver. It’s set in 15th century Ottoman Turkey and begins when a teenage boy named Ali starts to experience dreams he believes are predicting the future. Before long, however, he learns that rather that predicting events, his dreams are actually creating them. I’ve worked on this book through many drafts over the years, and it’s taken a lot of research, so I’m excited to finally be close to completion.

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

The best publishing experience of my writing career so far was the publication of my first book, The Stray Cat, a middle-grade horror book for readers aged 8-13 published by Lothian/Hachette back in 1992. When the manuscript was accepted for publication and we were discussing possible artists, I asked for Shaun Tan to illustrate the book. Shaun was still a relatively new artist at the time and he submitted a portfolio and did some sample illustrations. Gary Crew (Series Editor) and Helen Chamberlin (Children’s Fiction Publisher) were knocked out by his stunning artwork and contracted him to do the illustrations.

Working collaborative with Shaun was an amazing experience and a major career highlight. It was the first book Shaun illustrated before going on to become a much-lauded artist and writer himself. The Stray Cat was quite successful in Australia and went on to be published in a number of foreign editions, including French, German, Korean and Bahasa Indonesian. Although I’d had some professional short story sales up to that point, I felt that its publication established me as “real” writer.

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

Looking back at the books I’ve read over the last 12-18 months, I can see I’ve tended to read mostly novelettes and shorter novels. I also have a huge TBR pile that includes a lot of Antipodean spec fic I haven’t managed to get to yet. And I also have to admit I haven’t read much science fiction or work by New Zealand writers recently. Having said that, I thoroughly enjoyed the following books. They are all excellent.

For Horror fans I recommend two books by Kaaron Warren: The Grief Hole and Into Bones Like Oil, two books by Deborah Sheldon: Body farm Z and Thylacines, plus Alan Baxter’s supernatural thriller Devouring Dark. For Fantasy readers I recommend Kirstyn McDermott’s Triquetra, Janeen Webb’s The Dragon’s Child, and Aurum – A Golden Anthology of Original Australian Fantasy novellas edited by Russell B. Farr. And last, but certainly not least, for Young Adult readers I highly recommend both How to Bee by Bren MacDibble and Catching Teller Crow by Ambelin and Ezekiel Kwaymullina.

I’m also looking forward to reading Elizabeth Knox’s new fantasy novel, The Absolute Book, and Jack Dann’s dark fantasy/alt-history novel Shadows in the Stone.



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