Spec fic and genre

Thursday, August 28, 2014
Interview with Marianne de Pierres

Portrait of Marianne de Pierres
Marianne de Pierres

Prolific Queensland-based author Marianne de Pierres talks spec fic and genre writing with Writers Victoria in the lead up to her Spec Fic Masterclasses in Melbourne and Geelong.

How would you define speculative fiction to someone who hadn’t heard of it?

You know what…I’m going to totally cheat here and quote Wikipedia!

“Speculative fiction is an umbrella term encompassing the more fantastical fiction genres, specifically science fiction, fantasy, horror fiction, weird fiction, supernatural fiction, superhero fiction, utopian and dystopian fiction, apocalyptic and post-apocalyptic fiction, and alternate history in literature as well as related static, motion, and virtual arts.”

You write sci fi as Marianne de Pierres and crime as Marianne Delacourt. Are pseudonyms particularly useful when you write genre fiction?

There is a long tradition of the pseudonym in all kinds of writing, and it is used for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, it’s simply that the writer wants separate writing identities or it may be that they wish to keep their real identity private. Other times, it’s a business decision made jointly between publisher and author. If books are not selling well under a particular name then the alternative is to start with a fresh name in the marketplace.

I chose a pseudonym for my crime novels because I felt that they were written in a different style to my science fiction and would confuse my established reading audience.

You’ve commented in the past that there aren’t that many female sci fi writers. Is this changing?

You know, there are plenty of them out there writing short fiction, but many chose to write novel length fantasy rather than novel length science fiction because it’s more likely to attract a publisher. That’s why I love small press publishers like Twelfth Plant Press and FableCroft Publishing because they nurture female science fiction writers (see Twelfth Planet’s novella series called Twelve Planets).

Genre fiction always seems to be bolder at playing with possibilities in the publishing landscape and your books are no exception, being adapted into role playing games and novel adventure games. Why do you think that is?

I believe that genre fiction allows writers to unleash their imaginations in a way that any kind of realist fiction simply cannot. That is not to say that realistic fiction isn’t imaginative, but just that in speculative fiction, the boundaries and the conventions are made to be broken. In turn, that’s a breeding ground for digital mayhem and the creative space we like to call transformative or new media. In fact, just today, I’ve put together a proposal to run a digital storytelling course because not only is it here to stay, it’s enormously engaging fun. Consumers expect their entertainment to be available across a variety of platforms, and speculative fiction adapts well.

Finally, who are your favourite spec fic writers? And if someone wanted to get into spec fic, which book should they start with?

Oh, goodness! That’s almost impossible to answer! I’ve found that different authors have been important to me at different times in my reading life. It’s a changing fare. But a couple of authors whose writing I respect enormously, include the late Octavia Butler, Nancy Kress, Ian McDonald Gwyneth Jones, Tricia Sullivan and Mary Gentle. And here are some wonderful Australia speculative fiction authors to get started with: Garth Nix, Kate Forsyth, Karen Miller, Glenda Larke, Trudi Canavan, Sean Williams, Trent Jamieson, Richard Harland, Margo Lanagan and Tansy Rayner Roberts. But that’s just a taste…for a real look into the vibrancy of speculative fiction writing in Australia then check out the 2014 Australian Spec Fic Snapshot.

About Marianne de Pierres

Marianne de Pierres is a multi-award winning Australian author of novels written in the science fiction, fantasy, crime, and young adult genres. Over the eighteen years Marianne has been a professional writer, she’s acquired a wide skill base and knowledge about the craft and business of writing. Marianne is currently tutoring in writing at the University of Queensland and is the Project Manager for WRITE101x, a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) being developed by uqX as part of the edX consortium.