Lisa L Hannett is quirky, highly talented, and living in Adelaide — city of churches, bizarre murders and pie floaters — so you know she knows all about suffering for your art. Her short stories have been published in venues including Clarkesworld Magazine, Fantasy Magazine, Weird Tales, ChiZine, Shimmer, Electric Velocipede, Tesseracts 14, and Ann & Jeff VanderMeer’s Steampunk II: Steampunk Reloaded, and she provided a creepy-as-all-fuck little gem for my issue of Midnight Echo to boot. The February Dragon, co-authored with upcoming carrotter Angela Slatter, won the ‘Best Fantasy’ Aurealis Award in 2010, so you know she’s got chops.
Her first collection of short stories, Bluegrass Symphony, was published by Ticonderoga Publications in 2011. Midnight and Moonshine, a second collection co-authored with Angela Slatter, will be published in 2012. You can find her online at http://lisahannett.com.
Helen Venn is one of the loveliest ladies in writing, and for a variety of reasons, one of the bravest SF people I’ve met, reasons which include being utterly willing to stand up and call bullshit on anybody in the middle of an illogical or disagreeable rant. Including me on more than once occasion. I love her combination of gentility and steel, the best example of which occurred during Clarion South when, during a patented Battersby diatribe on the difference between ‘jet fighters’ and ‘bus drivers’ she very calmly waited for a break in the action and firmly declared “I like being a bus driver.” She’s fabulous, as you can discover at her blog and the Egoboo collective, but she never set out to write SF. She began writing literary short stories and poems. Now, no matter how hard she tries, she ends up with speculative fiction.
She has placed in various competitions (most recently a finalist in the first Quarter of Writers of the Future). She attended Clarion South in 2007 and was an Emerging Writer in Residence at Tom Collins House Writers’ Centre in 2009. She is currently working on her second novel.
Trent Jamieson is a stylist, as anyone who has read one of his lyrical, poetic stories can tell you. He’s published over sixty of them, as well as the Death Works Trilogy with Orbit Books and the Nightbound Land duology with Angry Robot Books. When not writing, which as far as I can tell, is never, he works at the Avid Reader Bookshop in West End. he lives in Brisbane with his wife Diana, and has a funky website over here.
Tansy Rayner Roberts is a phenom. Winner of the George Turner prize, author of the Creature Court trilogy (HarperCollins Voyager) and short story collection Love and Romanpunk (Twelfth Planet Press). Bloggerer at http://tansyrr.com and http://ripping-ozzie-reads.com/, Twitterer at @tansyrr, Galactic Suburbia podcaster, reviewerer of works at http://aussiespecficinfocus.wordpress.com/ and http://lastshortstory.livejournal.com/, AND she runs a doll craft business, makes fabric art, raises her two daughters and can type really fast, not to mention I’m pretty sure she’s also a Doctor of something or other historical and she probably solves crimes in her spare time. Frankly, I think she died ten years ago and was replaced by a robot.
Far too often, writers get bogged down in the art vs. craft divide, as if those who prefer one term are automatically elitist geniuses, and the others are hard-working plebs. One lot wave their hands and expect their work to magically appear with a swish of their keyboard, while the others are so obsessed with wordcount that they wind up typing gobbledegook and extra gratuitous sex scenes or descriptive paragraphs just so they can hit their day’s quota.
I know all these people. I have been all these people, at varying points in my career. Most writers have.
It does interest me, though, the hang ups so many of us have over one word or another – it’s like that sticky divide between ‘author’ and ‘writer’. We all have our own personal, occasionally quite emotional definitions of certain words that relate to our career. The words we embrace, the words we disassociate ourselves from with flappy hands, and the words we’re totally not ready for yet. (at least in English we have the privilege of several words to describe people who write – in Swedish there’s only one, which is most closely translated as ‘author’ so if you don’t feel ready to hang that particular word around your own neck, you don’t get a label at all)
I get very impatient with the idea of writing as Art, in the same way I get impatient with the idea of muses – too often it seems to suggest a romantic, film montage sort of life, where inspiration strikes, something moves THROUGH the writer who types manically for 24 hours and suddenly the work is done.
But that says more about my own preconceptions about Art in itself than it does about the (straw) writers who call themselves Artists, Darling. Do all novelists eye visual artists suspiciously and mutter about how long it takes to fill a canvas vs. how long it takes to produce a novel? Are we also affected by the film montage view of reality, where we think all it takes is flourishing a paint brush or squishing our hands into wet clay, and magically the work is done, sitting on plinths, being peered at by New York critics?
When I peel back the layers of assumptions that pop culture has apparently taught me about artists, and remember the people I actually know in reality who work as artists, or as craftspeople (or, just as commonly, both at once and more besides) I recall that art is in fact largely about using and utilising techniques. It’s about practicing, and improving, and while there are elements involving inspiration and all that fancy stuff, there’s also a lot of bloody hard work. So actually, there’s not that much difference between art and craft at all, as a useful metaphor. Except maybe artists get paid more, while craftspeople get paid more often. But not always.
Likewise, it doesn’t matter whether a writer (or an author) thinks of themselves as someone who produces art or craft. They’re all just words, and writers know better than anyone that they can make words mean anything they want. We use them to trick ourselves into feeling better (or worse) about our work, into writing more (or not writing at all) and into feeling like the writer/artist/person we want to be. There are so many elements of a writing career that the writer themselves has no control over. But what we can control are our working methods, our goals, the techniques we work on to improve our art or craft or just plain writing, and the way we present ourselves to the world.
If we didn’t have our little quirks, our pet metaphors and endless different methods of talking about ourselves, we’d probably dissolve into puddles of paranoia and panic about this unstable, rocky industry we have pinned our hopes on. We’d be no fun at dinner parties. We might never leave the house.
The kind of artist a writer most resembles is a con-artist. But trust me, that’s a good thing.
Stephen Dedman has been just about everything in SF over the years: the author of excellent novels like The Art of Arrow Cutting and Shadows Bite, more than 120 short stories published in an eclectic range of magazines and anthologies, editor, magazine head honcho, bookshop owner, international man of mystery, and guru. He’s also my very good friend, and was best man when I married Luscious Lyn. We get together nowhere near as often as we should, due to distance, but with new work constantly appearing (he’s currently due to appear in Midnight Echo #6, Exotic Gothic 4 and Zombies versus Robots, and it’s only Saturday…) he’s always somewhere close in fictional form. He’s always pretty damn close to the top of the list when I’m inviting people into writing ventures, and my League of Treacherous Carrots was no exception.
When I decided I was going to invite other authors to speculate on the nature of writing as Art, Adam Browne was the first person I asked. Indeed, it was the thought of what he might say that prompted my initial desire to spread the question around. When it comes to writing as art, no other author of my acquaintance writes with quite the same combination of style, artistic intent, and outright froodiness. If you’ve read his work, you know exactly what I mean– stories like the Bangkok-as-you’ve-never-imagined-it Heart of Saturday Night, or the Aurealis Award-winning The Weatherboard Spaceship, or Neverland Blues (Michael Jackson has evolved into an immortal spaceship, and needs a boy to, uh, enter him…) ……Once read, they can never be forgotten. Adam is that rare kind of artist, whose works can genuinely change the way you see the universe. If his novel makes the final leap from hopeful to actual Angry Robot publication, placed as it is in the same editorial lottery queue as mine own, then a much wider audience than ever before is going to know what we Browneaphiles have already discovered: he is one hell of a singular talent.