2020 Snapshot: C H Pearce

C.H. Pearce is a sci fi/fantasy writer of weird dystopian stories, mostly with a domestic or workplace focus, banter, and rats. Her short fiction has appeared in Aurealis magazine, Award Winning Australian Writing 2016, and A Hand of Knaves. They have won awards including the Marjorie Graber-McInnis Short Story Award in 2015 and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild / Conflux Short Story Competition in 2018.

She lives in Canberra with her partner and their toddler and newborn. She studied ancient history, works in records management, and also does art. She’s working on more short stories and her first novel.

Find her online on chpearce.net, Facebook, Twitter @CHPearceWrites, and Instagram @c.h.pearce

  1. Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

I write short stories and am currently working on my first novel. My stories skew towards weird dystopian sci fi with black humour, although in 2018 I threw a Weird Western/fantasy/dystopian genre mashup into the mix, which was a lot of fun to write and edit (‘The Last Magicians of Sad Hill’ in A Hand of Knaves, eds. Leife Shallcross and Chris Large).

Later this year, I’ve got a short story titled ‘Transcendence, Inc.’ coming out in the monster-themed anthology Unnatural Order, eds. Alis Franklin and Alyssa Wickramasinghe. This anthology has a stellar lineup of contributors, and I can’t wait to read the other stories. I’ve been reworking ‘Transcendence, Inc.’ for years and have rewritten it from the ground up more than once, and I’m proud of it, so I’m excited to share that. Like most of my stories it began with my gleefully mashing together a number of tropes, genres, and ideas that delight me, followed by severe pruning into a streamlined story. It’s still got all the good stuff—post-climate-apocalypse Australia, theatrical villains, demonic contracts, monsters in ill-fitting human suits, ominous critters, established queer couple, nonstop banter, day jobs, transcending your pesky human skin, and the worst way to wear socks and sandals.

I’m currently working on a cyberpunk novel. It’s about a pest control worker who sides with the parasitic fungoid hive mind he’s tasked with eradicating, with a view to the hive’s potential to help their city survive post-climate-apocalypse. This puts him at odds with his lover and colleague who’s determined to either bring him to reason, or bring him down. I’ve written the first draft and am currently editing (and by ‘currently’ I mean ‘not at all since my second child was born six weeks ago, but I’m hoping to pick it up again in a few months, and let’s not even talk about the fires or Covid-19’ and by ‘editing’ I mean ‘belatedly planning, then vigorously hacking away and rewriting, because the first draft was a monstrous 300k’). I’m enjoying the process, including the occasional brief switch back to short story projects. Even the current hiatus from both writing/editing and my day job while on maternity leave has the benefit of the perspective it affords to see big picture issues and jot down ideas to implement later. Plus, toddler and baby cuddles.

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

Prior to 2015 I was a ‘secret writer’ and artist, too shy to show anyone my work. Now I can’t imagine a life without writing. Happily I moved to Canberra in 2013 and discovered the amazing local writing community through Conflux convention and the Canberra Speculative Fiction Guild, after placing 3rd in the Conflux 11 short story competition. This not only gave me the confidence boost I needed, it put me in touch with a community of like-minded, enthusiastic, talented people, approachable and supportive no matter anyone’s career stage. I completed a Grad. Dip. in Writing and Editing at the University of Canberra in 2016. I’ve also been lucky to meet an informal crit group of inspirational local writers via National Novel Writing Month, and we continue to meet regularly. Haven’t looked back!

In 2018, the experience of having a short story published in CSFG Publishing’s A Hand of Knaves anthology was fabulous from start to finish. The opportunity to work with editors Chris Large and Leife Shallcross was a great learning experience resulting in a much stronger story. One of my biggest thrills is seeing a story illustrated, and Canberra artist Shauna O’Meara knocked the ball out of the park with her internal illustrations for the anthology. Finally, being part of the book launch at Conflux 14 was a fabulous new experience, with the opportunity to meet fellow contributors, editors, illustrator, and slush wrangler, as well as other convention-goers and launch attendees. As well as great company there were live readings (complete with demon-voice), the best kind of signing table chaos, and themed costumes, including an elven maiden and a steampunk pirate.

The following day, I had another short story ‘Flipping Fat on Middle Fifth’ win the Conflux 14 short story competition, capping off an excellent weekend at the convention.

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

For fellow lovers of short fiction, David Versace’s Mnemo’s Memory and Other Fantastic Tales and Simon Petrie’s 80,000 Totally Secure Passwords That No Hacker Would Ever Guess are both excellent collections. Both authors write across multiple SF genres including my favourite cup of tea—weird, thoughtful sci fi, alternately dark and humorous.

The writing community in Canberra also helped me expand my reading horizons and enjoy other genres (I still love Philip K. Dick, but I was definitely stuck in my genre comfort zone). Turns out there’s so much great Aussie and New Zealand SF fiction it’s a struggle to keep this response under control—so I’ll limit my answer to recommending the authors/works which sold me on genres I hadn’t previously known I could love, and have since gone on to read widely in. Horror: Kaaron Warren’s The Grief Hole. Fantasy romance and fairy tale retellings: Emily Wrayburn’s A More Complicated Fairytale and Leife Shallcross’s The Beast’s Heart.

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