Interview with Australian 2020 SF Snapshot Project

Australian 2020 SF Snapshot Project: Tell us about your recent publications/projects?

Lachlan Walter: My most recent book, which I’m incredibly proud of, is We Call It Monster. It’s a bit of a weird one, so bear with me…

We Call It Monster isn’t really a novel, but it isn’t really a short story collection either – it’s what the critics call a story-cycle/novel-in-stories, i.e. a set of interlinking short stories that form an overarching narrative. In its case, the narrative is about giant monsters of the Godzilla/King Kong kind, covering their initial appearance through humanity’s attempts to defeat them and onto our eventual acceptance that we no longer rule the world. However, there’s no need to run in horror at the prospect of a blood-and-guts story steeped in juvenilia, because We Call It Monster is quite different – it’s my attempt to treat such monsters in a serious, grounded and realistic way (something that often happens in film, but rarely in literature). It’s more concerned with people than the monsters; they really exist as a device to examine how we might react to world-changing forces beyond our control, and to illuminate the precariousness of our position as world-conquerors sitting atop the food chain. Ultimately, it’s a story of what really matters in life: community and compassion, love and family and friendship, hope and faith.

With that done and out in the world, I’m now working on my next two books – the first, a “zany” metafictional SF story, is sitting in the drawer composting, to be looked at anew once I finish the second, which is a grounded work of climate-fiction set in the near future. I like to challenge myself by attempting to write vastly different books, rather than simply writing the same kind of book over and over again – We Call It Monster is incredibly different from my first book, The Rain Never Came, which is a fast-paced post-apocalyptic story with an undeniably Australian voice and atmosphere, and I hope to continue this process of renewal and uniqueness into the future.

A2020SFSP: What has been the best publishing or SF community experience of your career so far?

LW: No argument – having We Call It Monster, which is my second book, accepted for publication.

While the moment when you receive the acceptance letter for your first book is simply incredible, once that’s done you realise that if you actually want to be a “real” writer, you have to write another one, and then another after that and another after that and so on and so on. This can be a struggle, because you might not feel like you have it in you – for most writers, myself included, our first books ares our babies, nurtured and cherished and slaved over, and the ideas behind them seem to come from nowhere, and the writing of them can take years to evolve. With a second book, you have to metaphorically fish around for the idea behind it, and consequently second-guess yourself to an excruciating degree. Should it be a sequel? Should it be something completely different? Is this idea good enough? Or how about this one? Will it keep me interested for the next 2-3 years, so that I can keep at it and actually finish it?

However, once an idea has hooked you deeply enough to see it through to the (sometimes) bitter end, and once it has been completed to your satisfaction, having it accepted for publication somehow proves that you’ve got what it takes to keep on writing – you’ve now done it twice, and that gives you the confidence to try and do it again, and that’s incredibly rewarding.

A2020SFSP: Which recent Australian/NZ work would you recommend to international fans interested in expanding their Antipodean spec fic knowledge?

LW: Rather than a single work, I would recommend that international fans instead turn their attention to Antipodean speculative fiction as whole. After all, we have an incredible diversity of voices and thematic interests in our writing community, all of which are worthy of an international fan’s time – from First Nations writers using their work to challenge the foundations of our societies, such as Alexis Wright and Claire Coleman, to humanists such as Steven Amsterdam and Rohan Wilson, to satirists such as Max Barry and Andrew McGahan, to post-apocalyptic specialists such as Peter Docker and Andrew Macrae, to everyone in between, including Meg Mundell, Vincent Silk, Deborah Biancotti, Sam Watson and Cat Sparks (to name but a few).

I could go on and on. But in the end, I’d just recommend that they do a little digging, because they never know what they’ll find.

(Originally published on Australian SF Snapshot Project, 29/6/2020)



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