Keith Stevenson is our Guest of Honour at Conflux 8. Keith is a speculative fiction editor, reviewer, podcaster and author. He’s the publisher with coeur de lion publishing, an Australian-based independent press which has, so far, picked up three Aurealis Awards, one Ditmar, one Vogel and a World Fantasy Award for its published titles. Keith began his editing career as editor of Aurealis Magazine from 2001 to 2004. He set up coeur de lion publishing, with fellow author Andrew Macrae, in 2006 and in 2008 he became the science fiction and horror reviewer for Aurealis Magazine until 2010. Keith also produced and presented the Terra Incognita Speculative Fiction Podcast for thirty shows from late 2008, featuring the best Australian speculative fiction read by the authors who created it. He’s also variously organised, convened or judged in the Aurealis Awards on and off since 2001.
Writing and editing involve many hours in front of a computer, yet you also have a partner who likes to see you sometimes and you must need some ‘me time’ just like the rest of us .How do you manage a work / life balance?
And I have a day job too! The good thing about being publisher/ editor is that I can choose my own deadlines and work towards them, so that eases the pressure a bit. For example I gave myself two years to get Anywhere but Earth out. Pyrotechnicon will take about a year, but it’s a short novel so, again, it’s doable in the time.
I guess it comes down to choices. My partner comes first and we really enjoy spending time together. As a freelance editor, she’s also very busy so we manage our time together well and there’s time for the other things too. Enjoying what you do also helps.
coeur de lion’s next book, Adam Browne’s Pyrotechnicon, is being launched at Conflux 8 in September. Can you give us any hints?
Well, it’s going to be amazing. Adam has written a fanciful and fun story full of his trademark wordplays and with a very engaging plot and characters. It’s a ‘found manuscript’ that relates the untold story of Cyrano De Bergerac’s final and most fantastical journey among the empires and states of the stars. Filled with incident, it features 1:1 scale orrerys of the solar system, billiard table shaped Venusians, galleons and cities adrift on the sea of time, and… well, you won’t believe it until you read it.
Adam and I will be discussing how it went from idea to finished book at the con.
You are writing a three book space opera, The Kresh Wars. What draws you to space opera?
I was brought up on it. Asimov, Niven, Heinlein, Blish; anyone remember the Perry Rhodan books? I love stories that span vast distances and see very different species thrust together, a grand canvas with room for huge space battles and individual stories. I’m having a lot of fun with it, which is just as well because I’ve kind of been writing it off and on for the last twelve years – more on than off lately. Books one and two are just about complete in first draft at around 180,000 words for the two. Book three will have to wait until I’ve brought the first two up to publishable standard, which is probably a couple of years off, what with everything else I’m doing. But I’m not in a hurry. Just as well really.
What would you do on the last day on the end of the world?
Find a way off-planet. Seriously, why hang around when there’s a fully fuelled Eagle on the launch pad.
I’m a fan of the tv show Inside the Actors Studio hosted by James Lipton. Lipton asks all his guests ten questions. Would you like to tell me:
1. What is your favourite word?
Cellar door. If I remember correctly, Tolkien said that word, in Welsh, was the most beautiful sounding in the world. It may be apocryphal, but when I was managing the student editors putting together the University of Sydney Anthology one year, we came up with that title for just that reason. And it resonates too. It brings its own story with it. You can imagine what it looks like, and what might be behind it.
2. What is your least favourite word?
‘Journey’. And my least favourite two words is ‘food journey’. I watched too much Masterchef last year and I’m going cold turkey this year because of that.
3. What turns you on?
Really good writing filled with ideas that just click into place as you read. China Mieville’s Embassytown had that and Hannu Rajaniemi’s The Quantum Thief.
4. What turns you off?
Oppositional politics and politicians. I prefer conviction politicians that have cohesive agendas they believe in and stick to, not just folks who say ‘no’ to everything. There aren’t many of those around these days.
5. What sound or noise do you love?
Pretty much anything by XTC. Paul Haines and I shared a love of XTC from way back. Author Steven Cameron is another XTC aficionado. There are a few around if you know where to look.
6. What sound or noise do you hate?
Oppositional politics and politicians. In particular the meaningless, knee-jerk sound bites they like to throw at each other.
7. What is your favourite curse word?
As I’m Scottish, it’s an ancient Hibernian word. Starts with ‘f’ and has many uses.
8. What profession other than your own would you like to attempt?
I’d like to have been a scientist working in really esoteric physics, like doing experiments with the Large Hadron Collider or radio astronomy or something. I was crap at physics in school and I have an Idiot’s Guide to Astronomy at home. That’s about all my poor brain can manage.
9. What profession would you not like to do?
Probably something that Tony Robinson did a show on, like dunnykin diver, or tanner, or chicken gibbleter. I don’t do shit and offal very well.
10. If heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the pearly gates?
I don’t particularly want to die. I want to hang around and see what the future’s like. So I’d most like to hear, ‘Yes, you can go back. New body’s waiting for you.’
If you want to know more about Keith, you can find him at www.keithstevenson.com .