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Posts tagged ‘space opera’

Carleton Chinner on Xhosa storytelling and space opera

Carleton Chinner writes near-future space opera. He is the author of the Cities of the Moon series—The Hills of Mare Imbrium, and Plato Crater. He also reviews new releases of predominantly science fiction for the Aussie Speculative Fiction Review where he enjoys reading stories that explore what science means to humanity. Carleton is known to enjoy solid science and will grumble at stories where fires burn in a vacuum or scuba divers spend hours underwater without needing decompression. I detect a healthy dose of scepticism in a writer with no need to suspend disbelief.

Welcome, Carleton, and thanks for joining me on Last Word of the Week. Can you tell us something about yourself that you think anyone who reads your book/s really ought to know?

Carleton: I’m more a storyteller than a writer. I guess that comes with the territory when you spend your childhood on an African farm where old Xhosa women spin marvellous tales of river serpents and white-painted, clay-clad women who return from the dead. I absorbed the craft of stories from these Xhosa ladies: the pull of suspense, the impact of vivid imagery, and the all-important need to suspend disbelief. There was no book learning, but learning nonetheless, in the deep organic sense of stories told in voice and rhythm. Learning in the way of things told and remembered.

That’s the best description of storytelling I’ve encountered! Lucky you. What is your favourite scene from your own writing? Why?

Just one scene? If I had to choose it would be a scene from my second book, Plato Crater, where two characters who cannot be together meet as remotely piloted droids in an uninhabited lunar crater. Circumstances mean there is no way they will get together soon, but they still find a way to share a kiss under the endless stars.

Plato Crater - eBook small

I love this scene because it captures an idea that is quite central to my writing; no matter how whizzbang the future technology is, people will still be people with human needs and desires. 

That’s really romantic, especially for droids! If I told one of your characters that they were imaginary, how would they respond?

Brother Jonas is a monk in a collection of short stories I am writing who may be something other than human. It would be great fun to tell him he was imaginary. I suspect it would lead him to deep introspection about who we are and what makes us real. 

Can you think of any books and/or writers who inspired you on your path to be an author? Can you tell us about that?

I’ve always been drawn to descriptions of our first interactions with aliens that cast light on who we are as humans. One of the first books I read like this was Heinlein’s Stranger in a Strange Land where a child raised by Martians comes to Earth and has to comprehend human culture. Heinlein’s description of laughter as a human response to the suffering of another had me sit back and go “Whoa! I never thought of it like that.”

I’m a big fan of China Miéville’s creative worldbuilding, but his Embassytown stands head and shoulders above the rest with its twin-brained aliens who get high on language, in a world where hyperspace is like travelling on the sea complete with seasickness and sharks.

More recently, I’ve been reading Octavia E. Butler’s Xenogenesis series which is packed with a diverse array of ideas about race, sexuality, violence, and even body modification.

Wonderful books in that list! Take yourself back ten years – what would you like to tell yourself?

Don’t be afraid of rejection. Just write! Tell the stories you want to tell.

I wasted so much time wondering if I should write instead of just getting on and writing. 

The Hills of the Moon - eBook small

Good point! What’s next for you in the world of writing?

Planning for the GenreCon * conference in November is taking up a lot of my writing time right now. It’s hard work, but worth it. GenreCon is going to be great.

When I’m not busy with that I’m working on a new technothriller about how Australia implements a reputation system like the new Chinese system.

*Genrecon will be a three-day feast of genre held in Brisbane from Nov 22, 2019, with fantastic speakers and panels.

Oooh, that sounds interesting! And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character – one of yours, or someone else’s?

An oldie, but I would love to be Phillip Linx from Alan Dean Foster’s Flinx stories as he explores crazy worlds in the Humanx Commonwealth. More importantly I’d be Flinx for his pet Alaspinian mini-dragon Pip. How cool would it be to have your own dragon?

Super cool! Thank you for sharing with me today, Carleton, and all the best with Genrecon.

Carleton-Chinner-web

Carleton’s Links:

Website: https://carletonchinner.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/sunfishau

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CarletonChinnerAuthor/

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/carletonchinner/

Buy: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0758DSP5Z

Last Word of the Week: Jane O’Reilly

Today’s guest in Last Word of the Week is Jane O’Reilly, an English author whose SF writing I very much enjoy – the novels Blue Shift and Deep Blue, respectively numbers #1 and #2 in the Second Species trilogy. Jane has written in other genres too. Her space opera is being published by Hachette in Australia. I admire how prolific and witty Jane is across many platforms – see the links at the end of the interview.

Last Word of the Week: Welcome, Jane, it’s a pleasure to have you here. Tell us, when did you write your first story?

Jane: The first one (not including all the ones I wrote at school) was about 9 years ago. I had been at home with my children for several years and had reached the stage where I’d started to feel like my brain was dissolving. I needed something to challenge me mentally, but it had to be something that I could do at home that wouldn’t cost a lot of money. I had read somewhere that Nora Roberts had started writing when she’d been at home with young children so I decided I was going to give it a try.

LWOTW: Good plan! So, what do you think of dreams, imagination, and planning?

My dreams are weird, my imagination is sometimes more of a hindrance than a help, and planning is key. Lots of writers like to pretend that stories are built using some sort of magical ability which only they possess, but I don’t think that’s true. A story has form and function which is why you can write 100K but not actually have written a story. I didn’t plan my first few manuscripts because I didn’t understand any of this. Once I began to learn about story structure I also began to plan, not just because it is really helpful, but because I understood how.

LWOTW: That bit about planning sounds like something I should consider a bit more often. I know you’ve had a deal of success, but what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

Definitely seeing one of my books in a bookshop for the first time. That’s really exciting. I had been digitally published for several years (11 titles in total) before I got an agent and a paperback deal, so seeing my book in a bookshop represented a massive step forward. It was in a bookshop called Foyles on Charing Cross Road in London.

LWOTW: I would love to see mine there one day! Jane, what are you most busy with at the moment?

I just finished the third book in my space opera trilogy so I’m waiting for my agent to let me know what she thinks of it, and in the meantime I’m working on a new book. No title as yet but it’s about a woman who discovers that her neighbour is an alien. She finds herself being taken off planet with said neighbour (who is not exactly thrilled with the situation) and adventures and shenanigans ensue. It’s a bit like Jupiter Ascending (with added space dinosaurs).

LWOTW: Space dinosaurs! What could be better? Now, if you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Be patient.

Getting published isn’t a quick business despite how many stories you see of people in their early 20s being signed for a six figure sum from a partial straight out of university. It can take years and multiple manuscripts before you sell your first one and that’s OK.

And the Last Word of The Week: What’s your favourite colour?

Pink. (We thought it might be blue!)

Jane’s links:

Website: www.janeoreilly.com

Twitter: www.twitter.com/janeoreilly

Amazon: https://www.amazon.com.au/s/ref=nb_sb_noss/358-2495086-1749742?url=search-alias%3Daps&field-keywords=jane+o%27reilly+deep+blue

Book Depository: https://www.bookdepository.com/Blue-Shift-Jane-OReilly/9780349416595?ref=grid-view&qid=1535980181682&sr=1-2