Wednesday, 7 February 2018

My SF Influences and Hopes: Introduction

Hi Everyone

A couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate to be filmed for the upcoming Speculate festival, which brings together a number of Australia’s finest speculative fiction writers to celebrate the craft of writing fantasy and science fiction. I am appearing on one of the panels and the aim of the film session was to interview some of us for a montage video to be screened at the first session of the festival.

Most interviews were done solo, but a couple had two participants. My partner-in-crime, so to speak, was the Aurealis Award winning writer Sean McMullan, whom I’ve known since the early 80s when we were part of a science fiction workshop group organized through the Council of Adult Education (CAE). That group has spawned a number of identities in the Australian SF scene, including Sean, Robert Jan (Costumer, and presenter of Zero-G on 3RRR FM) and Sue Bursztynski (author of ten books, one of them a Notable Book in the Children’s Book Council Awards).

Sean and me at the Red Rotunda in the State Library of Victoria for the film interview (photo by Joel Martin)
Joel Martin, the Director of the festival and a former student of mine, asked each interviewee three questions. The first two were standard for all interviewees:

1.     What science fiction/fantasy first made an impression on you?
2.     Why do you continue to write science fiction/fantasy?

The third was a three-part question:
  •  Where do you think science fiction/fantasy is heading?
  • Where do you hope it will go?
  •  Where you see your contribution to the genre(s) and where you think that fits – in regards to the direction or as a response to it?

The first two questions had been sent to us beforehand, so I had given them some thought and had come up with a number of authors, books and ideas. However, because there were to be a number of interviews during the afternoon, we were asked on the day to give short answers, a single word or phrase, if possible. This meant I had to trim my prepared responses. As far as I can recall, the final versions were along the lines of the following:

1.     Roger Zelazny’s Lord of Light spurred on my interest in myths and The Lord of the Rings was a major trigger for my love of fantasy.
2.     Although I also write literary fiction and mainstream poetry, I continue writing speculative fiction because it allows me to explore different worlds from our own.
3.     The three parts:
  •  In relation to film, I see speculative fiction just becoming more and more the blockbuster epic—all colour and movement but poor narrative sense; all style but no substance.
  •  Again in relation to film, I would hope for something more than pure entertainment (which admittedly has its place), something that has better narrative sense, with believable character arcs, however nuanced, yet still holds to the production values of the blockbuster. As for books, I would hope that fantasy returns to its roots and resumes its connection to and exploration of Wonder.
  • In much of my work, poetry and fiction, literary and speculative, I have tried to delve into the mythic dimension of the world and I am keen to keep exploring the connection between Myth and History and also hopefully evoke Wonder. While I appreciate stories that have entertainment as their primary concern, that is not my direction. 
As I said above, I’m not sure of my exact words, but I feel these answers cover the same ground.

When I returned home that evening, I realised I had more to say to these questions and so in the next few blogs I will explore them in more depth, which might give you some sense of how I came to be the poet and writer I am today.

If you interested in Speculate’s mission, which is to foster the speculative fiction community in Victoria and around Australia, with support from readers, publishers and writers, and you want to enjoy some of the industry’s leading voices, the festival will be held at the Gasworks Arts Park, 21 Graham St, Albert Park VIC 3206 on April 28, 2018. For further information, visit the website ( and join the mailing list.
I hope you enjoyed this post. As always, I welcome your comments.

Best Wishes


Spiri Tsintziras said...

Very interesting Earl - great that you are out there talking and thinking and sharing! Thank you. Spiri

Earl Livings said...

Hi Spiri, Thanks for your appreciation. As writers, we have to get ourselves out there every now and then just to avoid getting too closed in by thinking only of our projects and not of the world outside. A delicate balancing act. I hope things are going well with you. Cheers, Earl