I hope 2012 is treating you well. It’s been a great start to the year for me, with my story ‘Sayuri’s Revenge,’ accepted for publication in Tales from the Bell Club, to be published later this year. This is my first overseas publication.
Another exciting thing for me has been the beginning of GC Speckies, a sci-fi, fantasy, horror, animae appreciation group. It’s been one of my dreams to get a fan group going on the Gold Coast, so we’ve done it! We meet the third Sunday of the month, in Ashmore. If you’d like to come along, please contact me.
Now, I’m stoked to have an interview with Patty Jansen to share. I got to ask her all those personal questions I like to ask authors (but if you ask them in person sometimes they go into shock!), and she’s given some great advice. I’m sure she’d be happy to answer any questions you’d like to ask her.
Patty has a story coming out soon in Analog Science Fiction and Fact. She’s a member of SFWA and has sold fiction to Redstone SF and the Grantville Gazette. She was a winner of the Writers of the Future contest.
Helen: Hi Patty, and welcome to my blog! From your career, working as a scientist, I can see that science has always been important to you. What sort of science intrigues you most?
Patty: I am very much a hard sciences person. I try to remember that social sciences are science, too, but have to admit that part of me is always going to be only pretending to believe that. I lean towards the biological sciences. I am terrible at maths, which makes my recent fascination with astronomy frankly quite scary. When reading up for worldbuilding and the like, my reading very quickly gets to the level of scientific publications, because I’m used to reading them, and I know how likely error or reader bias gets introduced in citations of citations.
Helen: That’s great that you didn’t let the maths hold you back! Can I ask what drew you to writing and what do you love about combining science and fiction?
Patty: Imagine a person interested in hard sciences, but that same person has somehow been born with an ability to ‘feel’ the structure of language. That would be me. I worked in sciences, but was not going to make any great new discoveries. I found I was much more interested in the communication of science. Science Fiction is often seen as a vehicle to predict the future (and getting it wildly wrong). I think the real value of Science Fiction is that it makes abstract science visible, and that it inspires, rather than predicts.
Helen: Wow. Science Fiction is inspiring. What piece of writing do you feel is your best?
Patty: All of them 😉 Joking aside, there are different aspects I love best about every piece I have written. If it doesn’t give me some sort of thrill to re-read, I know it’s not working. It could be purely emotional. For example the emotions in my kids book The Far Horizon slot together perfectly. Similarly in my story Where the Plains Merge into the Sky (Scapezine issue 2), a fairly standard situation came together beautifully, of a girl trying to comply with family expectations, and failing miserably. I love the space-operatic social worldbuilding in Watcher’s Web, and the hard SF world in my ISF/Allion universe, in which my novelette His Name In Lights is set. I’m quite happy with the way one of the societies in my Icefire trilogy sciencifies fantasy. People would have this approach to magic, if magic existed. They would try to quantify it, and work out some ‘if I poke here then this happens’ kind of formulas. That is all Newton did. Observe, calculate, reproduce, check. Oops, went off-topic a bit.
Helen: What writing achievement are you happiest about?
Patty: I read through these questions a few days ago, and was going to say winning the Writers of the Future contest and going to their workshop in Hollywood, but then I sold a story to Analog. I can’t believe I’ll be one of the very, very few Australians to grace these august pages. I love Analog. It’s the only magazine that gets unwrapped and read the moment it hits my letterbox.
Helen: Congratulations! That’s awesome. I also wanted to ask, what’s your favourite book and/or author? What genres do you love to read?
Patty: I’m a very big fan of C.J. Cherryh for her realistic alien characters. She is my all-time most favourite author. I love Stephen Baxter for the meticulous research he puts into his books. Also Alastair Reynolds for grand ideas, and he’s just an all-round cool guy. In Australia, Sean Williams. My main preferred genres are hard SF and space opera. Unfortunately, there is not an awful lot of that being published in Australia.
Helen: I love Sheri Tepper for her realistic alien characters:) Now, I know you’ve been involved with the Speculative Fiction community in Australia, such as the Andromeda Spaceways Co-operative. What has been the most enjoyable activity you’ve been involved in?
Patty: Oooohhh, that’s a hard one. I always like connecting with fellow writers. Cons are fun purely for the social aspect. As for the most awesome, I’m going to pick Worldcon in Melbourne. But recently I also enjoyed going to the NSW Writers’ Centre SpecFic day. This is an awesome, activity-packed event. Thanks so much to Kate Forsyth for organising. Writing is a lonely business. Even ‘locals’ in Sydney live spread out over the metropolitan area, and most live around the edges. It’s not easy to meet local writers in Sydney.
Helen: What advice would you give to writers getting started today?
Patty: A few things:
You’re never going to get published if you don’t submit.
There is no one right path to publication.
Allow time for your skills to develop. A beginning musician doesn’t expect to be accepted into the Symphony either.
Even the big-name writers get rejections.
Know your stuff. Not just writing skill, but know what the story is about, know the facts about the subject of the story.
Helen: Great advice. It was great to meet you at Conflux last year. What was the best part of the convention for you. (Apart from meeting me, of course.)
Patty: I’m actually going to mention something that didn’t take part at the con per se, because you already know I enjoy meeting other writers. On the Monday, a couple of ASIM buddies decided to make a quick trip to the Canberra Deep Space Tracking Station, also known as Tidbinbilla. There is a visitor centre onsite that’s well worth a visit. That visit was incredibly awesome (thanks, Simon Petrie), but it had a tail. Being interested in astronomy, I figured, when I got home, that they might have a blog, Facebook or Twitter account that I could follow. Not only was that the case, I also saw that they were days from registering for Australia’s first-ever Tweetup. Tweetups are PR events organised by NASA, where usually 50 lucky individuals get the chance to look behind the scenes and talk to interesting people. I applied. I got in. So in November, I spent an incredibly wet weekend amongst telescopes talking astronomy and science and watching the Mars Curiosity rover liftoff, and talking to some of the scientists involved in this giant project.
Helen: That must have been wonderful. You lucky thing! Next, could you compare the benefits/drawbacks of publishing overseas and in Australia?
Patty: It really depends on what your aims are. There are some great Australian magazines and anthologies. But if you want to publish on a pro level, you really have to go overseas. The only Australian pro market is Cosmos, and they will only take stories under 4000 words. Guess how many of those I write?
Even if you start submitting in Australia, you will fairly soon run out of markets. I’ve not found there to be huge differences between Australian or overseas markets. They’re both at the end of an email address. They’ll both require some edits. An overseas market may Americanize (urgh, don’t believe I wrote that, must go wash the keyboard now) your story. Or it may not.
Helen: Ha-ha! The zeds make me shudder, too! Thanks for telling us all, Patty. It was great to have you share your experiences.
Below are links to Patty’s stories. She self-publishes longer works and is completing the third book in her Icefire trilogy, a dark post-apocalyptic steampunk fantasy.
This has been my first blog interview, so let me know if you liked it or abhored it.
Have a great future until I see you next!