Interview: with Sean Mulroy
Sean Mulroy lives in Newcastle, NSW. His fiction has previously appeared in Andromeda Spaceways and Every Day Fiction among others. His story REFUGEE CRISIS! WILL YOU HELP A TARKAZOID EXILE? appears in Breach #06.
Sean, please tell us a bit about yourself.
Of all your questions this is definitely the hardest. That statement, in and of itself, probably tells you more about me than a short paragraph can. I don’t really know who I am, and it’s getting harder to figure out since I change my perspective on the meaning of life every week or so. This is what I do know: I’m 33, have worked a multitude of jobs in various professions; a fruit shop and a farm when I was younger, in sales and office-type environments later on. I worked in student services at the University of Newcastle for seven years. When I can I write fiction, primarily sci-fi.
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 do not feel everything has already been written, or that homo sapiens as a species have even come close to achieving such an accomplishment. I’ve heard quite a few authors proclaim that there are no new stories and all we are doing is putting a different spin on an old tale. I seriously wonder what they’re talking about. From the perspective of the human mind both the outer and inner world seems to be infinite. This is possibly not true in reality, but it is from our current level of consciousness. New scientific discoveries and philosophical ways of looking at the universe pretty much occur every day. Humanity finds itself, both socially and intellectually, in previously uncharted waters all the time. This is good fodder for literary exploration and also germinating ideas. (eg. the nuclear bomb: a plethora of good fiction has been written, and is continuing to be written, due to the invention of such a weapon of mass destruction. It is unlikely stories dealing with the subject would have been written otherwise.)
I have written or started to write a story and discovered that another author has already travelled down a similar road. This is not an exact route or destination of course. What I find is someone else has used themes and interests (perhaps obsessions) in an uncannily similar way to myself. It is not a nice feeling. Luckily, so far, I’ve never written a story and found out that someone else has written the same thing. However, that is something new I can start worrying about.
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’m pretty tired of comedy horror, urban fantasy, superhero Hollywood stuff, time travel and sf that has nothing to do with science. I can’t stand political tracts, moral preaching and sermonette after sermonette that reads as if Tony Blair or Malcolm Turnbull wrote them. Not that I want to only read edgy stuff, just honest would be fine. I’d love to see more hard sf, biopunk, folk horror, prehistoric stuff and something new.
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?
People have told me that I often repeat the point I’m trying to make multiple times and they find it annoying, I’ve noticed it in myself too. It’s a flaw I have, but it’s not fatal. Classical musicians, chess masters, writers too probably, I think experience joy from doing repetitive tasks with a goal to self-mastery. It’s interesting to note that a lot of professional chess players, a disproportionate amount anyway, end up going insane or having severe cognitive malfunctions. If you take a closer look it seems, again, to disproportionately affect chess masters who stopped playing – not the ones who continued. Writing is a bit like that, at least to some people. Of course these are just random points that come to mind straight away and are probably meaningless. There are other deeper reasons. Childhood, current circumstances, genetics, disposition, predilection, revenge, health, self expression all play a part.
I’m really poor, and always have been, probably always will be, and not very sophisticated or well-educated. I’ve often wondered – if I was rich, and had more opportunities available to me, would I still be writing? I suspect I would, although I probably wouldn’t try as hard at it. Or then again, perhaps, I would – because I’d have more time to perfect the craft. If I think about the beginning, right at the start when I unnaturally found myself attracted to stories and storytelling, this is like when I was two or three years old, I think dissociation was the primary factor. I daresay it still is. Actually, I know it is.
What books are beside your bed right now?
I’ve got The House on the Borderland by William Hope Hodgson, but I’m not enjoying it. Memoirs of a Dervish by Robert Irwin, The Social Conquest of Earth by E. O. Wilson, a few things by Alastair Reynolds, Angela Slatter and Greg Egan. Also, I’ve always got a number of short story collections close by. I try and read old things as well as new. Most of what I read is speculative in nature.
Do you have any particular writing rituals you are comfortable sharing?
Nope. Don’t like rituals. Even so, I’ve fallen victim to them many a time and remain susceptible. I just try and do it.