Interview: with Lucy-Jane Walsh

Since discovering Ray Bradbury in 2012, Lucy-Jane has read, written, and breathed science fiction. In 2017, she founded the New Zealand magazine Sponge, which publishes science fiction from new and emerging NZ and Pacific writers. When she is not writing you will find her exercising her other love in life: coding. Her story Blue is featured in our second issue. You can find her on Twitter here.

To what degree do you feel everything has already been written, in some form or another? Have you ever started writing a story, only to discover someone has already written it?

Oh yes! When I first started writing I wrote so many stories that were thinly-veiled Ray Bradbury stories (most of the time on purpose). I think it's natural to copy others when you start writing — it's how you learn. I would actually encourage new writers to do this on purpose. What better way to learn that to copy a master?

But I don't believe that everything has already been written. Not in the slightest. I've never really understood why anybody thinks that's true. Sure, there are common plots and archetypes and tropes, but a good writer (or reader) knows that that isn't what makes a good story. For me the concern is not really that all stories have been told but that I will run out of time to tell all the stories I have to tell.

There are millions of people around the world with great story ideas, but who never even start to write them down. What drives you to sit down and aim for finished, published stories?

That's a good question! For me it comes from this very strong belief that I am a writer. It's a belief that I've had for as long as I can remember and it feels very important to me even though I can't really trace where it came from or when. If I think about it logically, I was surrounded by books as a child and have always been an avid reader so it's not really surprising I want to be a writer. This motivation only gets me so far though. When things get tough and the self doubt sets in, it's this strange unshakable belief that I should be a writer that keeps me going.

As well as writing, you also founded Sponge, a spec-fic journal based in Christchurch. What made you decide to focus on that side of publishing?

My decision to start Sponge came pretty suddenly. I was chatting to a friend about a project she had starting that she was really passionate about and I thought to myself, "Boy, I wish I had something in my life I felt that passionate about." It took me about ten seconds to get from that thought to: I should start my own science fiction magazine. I honestly don't know why it took me so long.

I have been writing science fiction for about 4-5 years now and I have always struggled to get it published — there just aren't many avenues for it down here in New Zealand. This isn't just a problem for writers but for readers as well. We have a unique perspective in New Zealand and it would be sad if our stories never got told. I hope that Sponge can be a place for people to read today's science fiction, but also for people in the future to look back at what we thought and wrote in the past.

Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of?

I really don't like vampires, and not just because of Twilight. Something about them bores me, which doesn't really make sense because I LOVE zombie stories and they aren't really that different. I did really enjoy Only Lovers Left Alive, which is just such a beautiful movie, so I guess I could be converted? I'm up for the challenge if anyone has any vampire stories they want to send to Sponge.

In terms of what I would love to see more of, I think I just want more science fiction from different types of people. For so long, the genre has been dominated by white American and British men and it really limits the kinds of ideas and perspectives present in the genre. I recently discovered Octavia Butler and her writing is such a stark contrast from anything I've read before — a lot of it is about feeling alien in your own body, about giving it over willingly to the people you love. I really related to that as a woman. I would love to read more science fiction by women, but also by Pacific, New Zealand, and Australian writers.

What books are beside your bed right now?

Honestly, there are piles of books, but I'm currently re-reading Mockingbird by Walter Trevis. Mockingbird is one of my all-time favourite science fiction novels — it's a neglected masterpiece! It's set in the future, where everybody is illiterate and society is run and maintained by mindless robots. The main character, Bentley, stumbles across a beginner's reading sets and accidentally teaches himself to read, unlocking human history and knowledge for himself. It's kind of like an older, more robotised Brave New World.

Before that, I read Red China Blues which is a biography by a Chinese journalist who was a die-hard Maoist in the 70s. She travelled to China to learn about communism and ended up covering the Tiananmen Square protests as a journalist for the Globe and Mail. I love autobiographies, but I binged on them recently and have overdone it a bit. That will probably be my last one for a while.

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