Tom Dullemond stumbled out of university with a double degree in Medieval/Renaissance studies and Software Engineering. One of these degrees got him a job and he has been writing and working in IT ever since. Tom writes primarily short fiction across all genres, including literary fiction and the occasional poem. He co-authored ‘The Machine Who Was Also a Boy’, the first in a series of philosophical fantasy adventures for middle-grade students, and writes regular flash Science Fiction for CSIRO’s The Helix high school science magazine.
You’ve been working on some exciting projects for Brisbane Writer’s Festival 2014! Tell us about them.
The Brisbane City Council has been working more closely with the Brisbane Writers Festival this year, and I’ve been involved in a few projects that cross over. I applied for and was accepted to be one of the three writers contributing to this year’s StreetReads ‘choose-your-own-adventure’ series, run by Emily Craven on behalf of the BCC. StreetReads is a location-based adventure that takes the reader through Brisbane and parts of the Cultural Precinct, and each of the contributing writers has to map out their own 15-site stories. That project ended up being a solid 10,000 words across eight different branching stories and one of the more challenging things I’ve attempted with a deadline. I’m very excited to see how the final products come out, though; each story has commissioned art, soundtrack and voiceovers, so a lot of work has gone into it from all contributors. I did a kind of matrix-y digital Brisbane adventure, and my co-authors Gary Kemble and Jody MacGregor wrote a story about giant mutant cockroaches invading the city, and a pirate captain trying to pull together a haphazard crew, respectively.
I’m also doing a short workshop for young writers about how to write SF, for the Love YA festival at the Square Library, and I’ve acquired four Lucha Libre Mexican wrestling masks to run a competitive improv fast fiction competition on the Sunday of the BWF. It’s called ‘Lucha Libro’, modelled on a Peruvian idea but amped up a little bit because I have a short attention span. I expect it to be ridiculous live literary wrestling.
You co-authored a children’s chapter book titled ‘The Machine Who Was Also A Boy,’ published by eMergent Press in 2013. What were some of the highlights of the experience?
Writing a longer form children’s book with my old friend Mike McRae was really fun. I touched on some of the pros and cons of co-writing in an article I wrote for the QWC [not sure if there’s an online link to that], but one of the highlights of finding someone you can co-write with is that you can smooth over the regular bumps and pauses of getting a narrative down. If you’re really stuck, you can throw over to your partner in crime, and when the manuscript comes back you’ll more than likely have something to help you on your way. Also, if you’re just not feeling it, you can go back over your collaborator’s work and do some editing and rewriting without having to push forward.
It was also great going to Conflux in 2013 and doing the book launch. One of the highlights was definitely talking to kids about philosophy, about ethics, about how we struggle to find answers to questions that depend so much on context. It was really cool connecting with an audience like that.
What do you have coming out soon, and what writing projects are you working on at the moment?
I’m very proud to have a story in Tiny Owl Workshop’s Unfettered project, and also have a short in the forthcoming Suspended in Dusk horror anthology (painstakingly edited by Simon Dewar) and a story in Fablecroft’s Insert Title Here antho. I continue to put out short flash SF fiction for CSIRO’s high school science magazine Helix, and am getting a few requests to pen writing articles here and there. It’s actually been quite a ridiculously successful year for me this year.
In terms of projects I’m working on, I’m stuck on the final chapter of the second Pandora’s Paradoxes book, which is mostly because for children’s fiction I think it’s a copout to have a huge battle and defeat the bad guys with violence. Kids already know you can win with violence, I kind of owe it to the readers to show them that you can win without it.
I’m also trying an adventure novella for Dark Region Press’s cool I am the Abyss anthology, as well as planning on submitting to a range of Australian anthologies coming up, including Hear me Roar by Ticonderoga Publications and Tiny Owl’s Lane of Unusual Traders.
What Australian works have you loved recently?
I’m way behind on Australian novels, focussing mostly on shorter fiction. I only just started reading Trent Jamieson’s Death Works trilogy, that’s how far behind I am! I have a copy of Alan Baxter’s Bound to read, and Ambassador by Patty Jansen, and I want to read Andrew Macrae’s Trucksong. In the short-to-long range, though, I loved Kim Wilkins’ collection The Year of Ancient Ghosts, as well as Jo Anderton’s ‘The Bone-Chime song’ which I read in the Light Touch Paper – Stand Clear anthology. I do a lot of beta-reading for fellow writers, and some slushreading for Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine.
In terms of work I’ve been really excited about, though: pretty much everything Tiny Owl Workshop is putting out. They pay tremendous rates, they produce quality artwork, and they’re throwing out ideas ranging from shared-world fiction (The Lane of Unusual Traders) through to Christmas cracker flash fiction (Krampus Crackers), plus they’re local. I’m a huge fan of collaborative literary art, so I try to stay on top of all their projects.
I’m also a fan of the amazing illustration work from Brisbane artists Terry Whidborne and Kathleen Jennings. The Australian literary scene is super exciting for me, and even more exciting is how many of the exciting parts of it are hanging around my home town
Have recent changes in the publishing industry influenced the way you work? What do you think you will be publishing/writing/reading in five years from now?
Because I don’t write novels, the publishing industry changes don’t really affect me. I have no expectation of funding a fulltime career with writing, because it’s just not feasible with short fiction. If anything, crowdfunding sites like KickStarter make it easier for anthologies of short fiction to be published, and electronic submissions have made it easier to get your work in front of editors. I think the key to getting financial value out of your writing career is to treat it like a business, with proper business tools. I hope to be able to contribute to that space soon when we finally launch Literarium.net, a project that’s been brewing for years.
In five years I expect to still be writing and reading short speculative work, although if the last year or so is an indication I might be pivoting a little more towards writing for children, or at least talking about writing for children, and possibly pulling some themed anthologies together for publication. My daughter will be almost 18 in five years, so the dark gods only know what my life will be like then.
I definitely want to do more cross-medium work; I really enjoyed the choose-your-own-adventure format, although it is really hard to plan. I want to get more into writing for role playing games. I want to do more collaborative art projects, or technology enhanced work.
This interview was conducted as part of the 2014 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’ll be blogging interviews from 28 July to 10 August and collating the links at SF Signal. You can read interviews at: