AND WHILE I’M MEMEING COZ IT’S TOO DAMN HOT TO DO ANY REAL WORK….

There’s a meme wandering around Facebook, and seeing I did it there, I may as well do it here too coz, frankly, I really never get tired of revealing stuff about myself. So:

Rules: Once you’ve been tagged, you are supposed to write a note with 25 random things, facts, habits, or goals about you. At the end, choose 25 people to be tagged. You have to tag the person who tagged you. If I tagged you, it’s because I want to know more about you. (Of course, I’m not going to tag anybody, but you should. You definitely should)

1. I can raise both eyebrows independently

2. I can form my bottom lip into the shape of two upward-pointing tusks, Gamorrhean Guard style, by biting down on the middle portion and pushing the rest up.

3. I spent three years in the early 90s working as a stand-up comedian. Badly.

4. I once smacked Billy Bob Thornton in the face with a cafe door.

5. I was once taken into police custody whilst wearing an eight-foot high pink rabbit suit and carrying a three foot long double-ended dildo along a public thoroughfare.

6. The second and third toes on both my feet are webbed.

7. I have an extra earlobe.

8. I once at 2 kilograms of jelly beans in one sitting. Since that day, I can’t bear the smell or taste of them.

9. I really only became serious about writing after deciding I would never be good enough to make a living as a cartoonist. I still wish I was better.

10. I completed one semester of a graphic design diploma, during which time I met my first wife, and decided I’d rather spend the time with her.

11. I love fish but hate seafood.

12. I am estranged from my only sibling because of the way he treats his children and ex-wife.

13. I have climbed the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

14. I met my beautiful wife Lyn at a science fiction convention. I married her at one, too.

15. I am, and have been since I was a child, a full-blooded atheist. I genuinely cannot understand how anyone can believe in something as silly and superstitious as a giant, remote deity that brings everything into existence and then sets down rules by which any individual has to run their lives. I am also married to one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. So there’s *one* interesting conversation we can have 🙂

16. I receive regular chiropractic adjustment to treat a 17 degree kink in my spine between my shoulder blades, which I suffered in a car crash in 2001. After my first adjustment I regained 1 1/2 centimetres in height.

17. I have arm-wrestled Sean Astin, and lost 3-0.

18. I am a keen follower of Nottingham Forest football club and am listed as a ‘notable supporter’: http://www.nationmaster.com/encyclopedia/Nottingham-Forest-FC#Notable_supporters

19. My ambition is to make a living from my writing, in order that I can spend more time with my wife and kids, and work on developing myself as a visual artist– I want to achieve success in multiple artistic disciplines, a la David Bowie or Spike Milligan. I’m desperate to do this before I turn 45. That gives me seven years.

20. I have visited 5 of Australia’s states (including the one in which I live), and have driven other people’s cars in 4 of them.

21. I am a big fan of Boris Karloff, and have passed this down to my oldest son. I even made him a Karloff tee-shirt to wear to a con once. What’s more, he wore it! I have also managed to inflict both my teenage boys with my deep love of pre-WWII horror movies.

22. As a child, I had several teeth removed because my mouth was too small. That is the only time I have had that accusation levelled at me.

23. I have shot one kangaroo; caught two fish; hugged one tiger; kissed one boa constrictor; eaten two grasshoppers; and ridden three elephants, four camels, two horses, and a donkey. Which was pregnant.

24. My favourite flavoured milk is Brownes Egg Nog Chill. My favourite ice cream is Memphis Meltdown Gooey Raspberry. I am having one of each this afternoon in an attempt to flavour my way through the ridiculous heat of the day.

25. I can confidently lay claim to being the 2nd most northerly-living speculative fiction writer in the Perth metropolitan area, and I’m only 2nd because my beautiful wife writes speculative fiction and sleeps on the north side of the bed.

SATIMA’S QUESTIONS

A new set of questions via the 5-questions meme, this time from the lovely Satima Flavell, although I get a little more ranty than usual on this one:

1. When I first met you, back in about 2002, you had just received recognition in the Writers of the Future contest. Since then, you’ve had many more short stories published, including your collection “Through Soft Air”; you’ve been a tutor at Clarion South and you’ve written one or two novels as well. Of all your achievements since WOTF, which one stands out for you?

Probably being invited to tutor at Clarion South. Most of the things I’ve done as a writer have been at the small press level, but Clarion was the first (and to date, only) time I was really ranked amongst the big boys by someone, which I think was a massive show of faith by the organisers. I’d like to think I didn’t let them down, but, to me, if you look at the names of tutors over the years I do stand out like a sore thumb as the “Who?” guy amongst them. My entire career seems to have been a case of stepping above my station on one occasion and then working my arse off not to have that step be a one-off. To date, that Clarion appearance is my biggest step, and my biggest one-off.

2. Which of your own stories do you love the best?

I don’t have a favourite. Once the stories are written and published, they’re yesterday’s news. I don’t have a huge amount of reprints because I rarely look backwards. It’s more important to be working on the next thing, the new project, than to think about what I’ve already done. (As Michael Keaton said about playing Batman: I don’t want to find myself at a car show in twenty years, still in the suit, with a kid on my knee, saying “Is that your Mom? Tell her to meet me after the show.”) I have several stories that stand out, because of awards, or because they’re good to use at readings so I use them more than once, but there’s no real star of the litter. I’d much rather hear that a reader has a particular favourite than have one myself.

3. Your wife Lyn is also a writer of no mean repute. Which one of Lyn’s stories do you love the best?

Ah, see, now this is easier 🙂 Lyn’s best story is called ‘A Whisper In The House of Angels’- to date, it’s unpublished, because it’s a very hard sell: it’s subtle, disturbing, and gives the reader very little in the way of sure footing. It just needs the right editor, and when it finds publication, it’s going to win everything. Of her published stuff, I have a real soft spot for ‘Of Woman Born’, in Daikaju II. It’s very short, only 600 words or so, but it’s everything Lyn is capable of: feminine, mature, imaginative, unique, all the elements that make up a Lyn Battersby story, plus it manages to be more than a little twisted and giggle-inducingly funny into the bargain. I think it’s been sadly ignored, and vastly underrated.

4. You’ve made it clear on many occasions that traditional fantasy is not your favourite genre. What do you think of some of the current drop of writers, such as Margo Lanagan, who are putting new, darker spins on some of the old tropes?

Actually, I’m not a fan of Lanagan’s writing. I find it contrived and soulless. I’m also aware that I’m in a tiny minority on this issue. I am going to raise issue with your statement, though: the thing is, I am a fan of traditional fantasy. What drives me to such public distraction is the sheer amount of bad trad-fantasy we see served up to us. It’s precisely because I love the good stuff that I rail against the Eddings’ and Brooks’ of the genre. Despite all his flaws, Tolkein’s work was incredible, as was Dunsany’s, and Stephen Donaldson’s original Thomas Covenant trilogy was amazing. It’s just that trad-fantasy seems to be the logical extension of Sturgeon’s Law, and nobody seems to say “Stop! The good stuff is over here!”

I also don’t see the usurpation of standard fantasy tropes as a new thing, although I’m a fan of writers such as Mieville and KJ Bishop who are spinning it out in new directions. You don’t have to go too far back to see Tim Powers doing wonderful things within ‘standard’ settings (witness ‘Anubis Gate’ and ‘Drawing Of The Dark’) and you can go back even further to writers like Wolfe, Vance, Moorcock, Le Guin and Poul Anderson to see some astonishingly wonderful ‘non-traditional’ fantasy stories.

It’s writers like these who point out how well you can do epic fantasy (Trad-fantasy, high fantasy, call it what you like), which makes it all the more annoying to me to see readers settling for the latest installement in whichever pale ‘Witches Guild of the Wheel of Shannara’ Tolkein-shadow you care to name.

5. And finally, what are your ambitions for the next five years, both personally and writing-wise?

I’m 38 years old. I want to be supporting my family through my writing by the time I turn 45. I want to make a concerted effort to move away from the short story/small press/horror story niche I seem to have been tarred with, and move into a wider publishing base– novels, more in the line of guys like Chuck Palahniuk and Jonathon Lethem, who are writing genre, to all intents and purposes, but who seem to have avoided being hemmed in by the label. If I get a chance to write another screenplay, or work outside my current boundaries, I’ll be eager to do so. I didn’t start out wanting to be an SF writer: I wanted to be a writer, non-specific, one thereof. I’ve become distracted, rather, since I started selling– small press SF is a bit of a honey trap, psychologically. I really want to go back to my original, pure desire– to write, and publish, whatever I choose, without thought of genre, or form, or purpose. I love writing poetry, and comedy sketches, and plays, and screenplays, and short stories, and cartoons. And I’ve published all of them over the years. That’s what I want.

Of course, what I’d like to do is really push towards achieving a significant artistic and commercial impact over an extended period of time. People like Spike Milligan, David Bowie, Stephen Fry, Alice Cooper, and David Hockney are my template: multi- form artists who can move from medium to medium as the need arises. It’s a very British way of thinking, to me- defining the artist by themself, rather than what they produce. Nobody over there tells Stephen Fry he can’t write a novel because he’s an actor, but over here we tend to look down on people who try to cross boundaries, as if they should be glad to work in one form. I’d like to break past that.

Either that, or I’d like to dress up as a bat and fight criminals. I’m still undecided.