Interview: with Eugen Bacon
A computer graduate mentally re-engineered into creative writing, Eugen Bacon has published over 100 stories and articles, and has a book out with Palgrave MacMillan in 2018. Her work has appeared in literary, science fiction and fantasy magazines and scholarly journals worldwide, including Award Winning Australian Writing, AntipodeanSF, Andromeda, Aurealis and many others. Her story Alice closes our fourth issue (which you can buy here)
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing? My approach to the compositional space is with excitement, with a sense of urgency, with a knowing that writing is an active speaking that emerges from a neutral position of unknowing, or a subjective position of knowing. My writing is a search, a journey, a coming through … Text shapes my silence. It shouts my chaos. I often start with a skeleton, a general idea, and then the writing shapes itself. Characters tell their story and the story’s ending often astonishes me. I am a morning person, my best writing in the wee hours. But across the day, I am mentally writing: looking, seeing, eavesdropping… Jotting seemingly benign words into my phone, words I will later shape into dialogue or characterisation: Careful there / name: Selenis / like eating the elephant, one chunk at a time / I can hear those thoughts from here… The world is the place I write, anywhere, anyplace. In the heart of a story, nothing else matters.
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? I recently read a story, a remake of the princess and the frog, and I smiled as I too had a remake. Postmodern writing is about reusing, remoulding, creating new from old. The world is diverse, people ever changing. No story is fully told—you can always recraft it.
Are there any horror/fantasy/sci-fi tropes or sub genres which you feel are played out? Seriously zombies? Done to death. But I recently read a hilarious zombie story, published in Andromeda Spaceways Magazine #68. Jamieson Ridenhour’s The Case of the Discounted Death told in first person has such characterisation, lightness and wit, you forget it is a zombie story.
And vice versa, what tropes would you like to see more of? I want to see more cross genre writers. Crossing genre is bending genre, blending writings, subverting the reader’s expectations so they don’t approach the text thinking this is sci fi; this is fantasy… The reader is open to be astonished. Crossing skilfully marries diverse genres, for example literary science fiction, detective fantasy… Ray Bradbury did this exceptionally as a speculative fiction writer who wrote across genres. His dystopian novel Fahrenheit 451 (1953) is deemed his only genuine science fiction novel — the rest of his work is speculative cross genre. You have only to read his body of work The Illustrated Man (1951), a story collection that features witty literary delights, full of soul, to know Bradbury’s genius. I would like to see more writers of courage and vision who dare to deviate from genre writing.
What books are beside your bed right now?
So in love with Anthony Doerr. He is not renowned as a speculative fiction writer, but his literary writing is just magic. Sometimes he steals in the odd speculative piece, for example Memory Wall in his equally named best seller. Stephen King I will read for research—his writing is sometimes spectacular, sometimes ordinary. Bradbury, give me any time. A friend gifted me N K Jemisin’s The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms (2010). I haven’t read it yet, so don’t take this as an endorsement!
How important is social media to you as an indie author? I am not an indie author per say, with over 100 short story publications in established magazines or journals, and small presses. I also have commissioned work with Palgrave MacMillan. Perhaps this accounts for my lay back in promoting work because someone will read it nonetheless. I am also reasonably private, and think hard before publishing an online post. But I respect social media. Writers like Mieko Kawakami in Japan shot to fame after a lowly start in e-publishing. Kawakami began with internet diaries and blogged her way to a literary prize. Much fan fic out there has made it big, for example Lev Grossman’s The Magicians (2009). I should get less Neanderthal and use social media platforms more.