Monday, July 03, 2006

Zoran Zivkovic interview

Zoran Zivkovic is a World Fantasy Award-winning Serbian speculative fiction writer, essayist, publisher and translator

Q: Though this point of view comes from a country where there's very little work in speculative fiction or comics going on, it seems to me that while earlier there was much concern about speculative fiction not being given enough respect in literary circles, or not being considered serious enough, now the speculative fiction/comics fields are so evolved that they've become separate worlds altogether, with enough popularity and critical acclaim to set their own standards, administer their own awards, and be content within themselves, while obviously both drawing from and contributing to mainstream literary fiction. Is this correct? If not, do people in the spec-fic world feel any need for 'literary' validation?

A: Whatever they feel, the so-called "speculative fiction" (a very awkward term indeed) belongs to the great family of literature. Any attempt to ghettoized it will only result in its eventual disappearance. There is no other validation for a work of literature but literary.

Q: In your opinion, what are the most significant events in the world of speculative fiction publishing over the last decade, and what would they imply for the future?

A: Speculative fiction is sadly dominated by the publishing industry, with very few exceptions. As long as it is so, it will remain only "a product", not an art.

Q: One fallout of the spec-fic world becoming so vast, vibrant and self-sustaining is this; the rest of the world is more left out than ever. Writers working in SF and fantasy from India, say, find it even harder to get their work read, because the SFF publishing market is hugely different from the mainstream literary one, with a wholly separate set of publishers and agents—which means that if there's any glamour left to the whole 'Indian writing' phenomenon, with India being the theme for major lit fairs like the Frankfurt Book Fair and the London Book Fair, it doesn't apply in these markets. Besides, most SFF writers currently breaking through abroad go through the short stories in magazines/meeting people at conferences routine before they managed to get signed up. Exactly how important are conferences in the world of spec-fic? Given that Indians don't have access to conferences abroad, do you think that these inequalities are just things that Indian SFF writers looking to get published internationally will just have to take in their stride, or is there anything that they can do to help their work get seen?

A: I very rarely attended any conference, and yet I managed to be published throughout the world. So, they are not essential, although contacts with the rest of the world are crucial. But fortunately there is Internet...

Q: In recent years, there's been a lot of talk about the New Weird, about speculative fiction writers blurring genre borders. Given that India doesn't have a history of SFF publishing, or a growth curve through magazines and anthologies as seen in more developed spec-fic markets, do you think that the way ahead for South Asian SFF lies in blending speculative fiction with literary traditions that are more associated with South Asian writing? Is there any particular tradition of South Asian writing that you'd like to see married to speculative fiction?

A: I am not sure about this, but there is an imperative requirement if you want to find your proper place on the world literary map. You have to identify your own specific literary voice and make other people want to listen to it. Never imitate what's currently popular in other countries. An imitator never really achieves anything...

Q: While acknowledging that spec-fic isn't monolithic and there are a hundred different directions it's growing in at any time, what do you feel are the most exciting fields of work in contemporary science fiction and fantasy? What area would you like to see more work in? And what do you think new writers should avoid?

A: I was never interested in what's currently fashionable. Literary fashion is another obscure invention of the publishing industry. New writers should by all means try to avoid being identified as other writer's fans, although it's impossible to avoid various influences, of course.

Q: Do you feel that practically speaking, writers from countries not normally associated with spec-fic markets need to emphasize on their own countries' myths/folklore in order to provide some kind of diversity and succeed in the international marketplace?

A: I personally didn't rely at all on my country's myths/folklore, so I can't recommend that approach, although it's legitimate.

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