Interview with Ian Nichols, author of “In The Dark”
Posted February 13, 2014on:
This post is part of the Book of Apex Vol 4 blog tour! We’ve got about 20 authors involved, traveling the blogosphere doing interviews and guest posts here and there. Today it’s my pleasure to have Ian Nichols, author of “In The Dark”, visit and answer a few questions. Ian doesn’t mention it below, but you can read his short story “Mortal Coil” at Daily Science Fiction.
LRR: In “In The Dark”, Morgan doesn’t recognize the language the gypsy is singing in. What do the words of his song mean? What language is the gypsy boy singing in?
I.N.: The gypsy is singing Portugese fada, sad songs abut the harshness of life and love. I heard these for the first time when I visited Portugal in 1996, and they are the blues of Portugal. The words mean “I was dancing in my boat besides the Cruel Sea, and the sea was roaring that I was stealing, and I wonder if the sea will have reason to see my heart dancing.” That’s a very loose translation of a sad song.
LRR: What inspired this story?
I.N.: I was born in Wales, but came to Australia when I was three. I didn’t go back to Wales until I was forty-six. Down in those valley towns, it’s not like “How Green Was My Valley,” or even like Dylan Thomas. The mines have always been dark, dangerous places, and when Maggie Thatcher closed them down in the eighties, the mining towns fell to ruin. Unemployment was running at well over 50% in Blainah, where I was born on the kitchen table at No. 12 Part St, alcoholism was rife and so was dependence on social services. There were holes in the hillsides where the old mine working had collapsed for lack of maintenance, and every now and then part of the hill would slide down into the valley from this and bury a house or two. If you were lucky, no-one was killed. The older people still talked about what it was like down the pits, and I took this mood, this feeling, as the basis of my story about how the mines can have a darkness that is theirs alone, a darkness of the soul.
LRR: Where else can we find your fiction? What work of yours are you most proud of?
I.N.: You can find my fiction around the place. The next piece to come out will be a horror story call “Notes on the Ecology of River Valleys” in Regime, a local literary magazine. There’s a fair bit in the back issues of ASIM, and there’s a nice, gentle horror story about starving to death on a remote island, all for the sake of love, in “Scary Kisses,” published by Ticonderoga Press. I’m pretty proud of “In the Dark,” and another story that was published in ASIM, “Son et Lumiere,” which is one of my shorter stories.
LRR: You’re a founding member and editor of Andromeda Spaceways In-Flight Magazine. Can you tell us a little more about this magazine, and how you got involved with in?
I.N.: ASIM has been a wild and wonderful ride ever since its inception. We pride ourselves on having first printed some of the rising stars of Australian SF/F, and having printed stories by some of the great international writers, such as Tom Holt, K J Parker and Liz Williams. We’ve won awards, started careers, and published consistently through the years. We’ve always resisted the temptation to go fully on-line, although we do have an e-magazine version, because there is just something about hard copy that is different. You can kill cockroaches with it, for a start; try doing that with your kindle. You can find out more about ASIM at http://www.andromedaspaceways.com/
LRR: You won a Tin Duck Award (the Western Australian science fiction achievement award) for your “World Without End: an examination of immortality and extended life in speculative fiction” . Can you tell us more about this work, and what it was like to win the award?
I.N.: It was actually “A Comparison the Ideology of Robert E Howard’s Conan Tales and J R R Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings” for which I won the Tin Duck; “World Without End” was the title of a paper I delivered at the First International Conferencing on Aging at Oxford University. The first is pretty much what it says, and it was published in “The Dark Man; the Journal of Robert E Howard Studies.” Basically, it goes through a process that examines values, attitudes and other aspects of ideology in the two sets of work, and comes to the conclusion that Howard was a Romantic and Tolkien was a Neoclassicist. The other paper looks at how aging and the preservation of life has been presented in SF over the years, and what the hell ‘immortality’ means, anyway. They printed that one in the proceedings of the conference, so it should be available on-line.
LRR: Now that you have your PhD in Creative Writing (congratulations, by the way!) are you writing fiction full time? I know you have actively written non-fiction and commentary in the past as well, is that something you will continue doing?
I.N.: As is the case with most writers, I have to have a day job, as well. I pick up tutoring jobs at universities, just waiting for my big break. I’m studying Art History as well, and writing reviews for The West Australian Newspaper, something I’ve done for twenty years. I churn out short stories and send them off to places, work on novels and send them out to places, and them send them all out again when they’re rejected. The life of a writer, except in rare cases, is that of eking out meager royalties with a variety of jobs and a variety of writing, right up to the day that the phone call comes; “We’d like to offer you two million dollars for the screen rights.” (Hello? Are you listening, Hollywood?)