Early last year I completed a questionnaire circulated by the editors of Vector, the critical journal of the British Science Fiction Association. I was a member of the BSFA for a while, before I found that my changing tastes and inclinations meant that the British Fantasy Society was probably more for me; on moving over, I found myself consorting with most of the same crowd.
The BSFA was my big introduction to old-school fandom; global in reach, literary in its foundations, passionate in its concerns. For a solitary writer, it was a link to a welcoming subculture with a genuine identity and a sense of its own history. It was my way into friendships close and distant that have lasted to this day.
The questionnaire was a re-run of a survey first conducted twenty years ago for Mexicon III by Paul Kincaid. Can’t remember how I responded back then but these are some of the answers I gave this time around:
On science fiction and fantasy
I think of myself as a mainstreamer with an sf/f background that tinges almost everything I do. Can’t say it without sounding pretentious but I try for a sense of mythic resonance in the mundane.
When you start writing, you imitate what you love. I loved Wells, ERB, Bester, Clark, DC comics, the sf ballast mags of (to me) mysterious pedigree that somehow showed up at the local newsagents’. My major influences are probably everything I was blown away by between the ages of 12 and 25. Thereafter I began to separate my sense of what was mine from what I’d read.
On the use of British settings
My novels have tended to alternate between closely-observed British settings and closely-researched foreign landscapes, usually (but not always) with a British main character for point-of-view. Never planned it that way and it’s not a very commercial way of thinking; the market likes you to find something that works and keep repeating it.
Do I detect a different response to my work from publishers in Britain and America?
Yeah. To UK publishers I’m a forgotten 90s horror writer. In the US I’m upmarket and literary.
The most significant developments in British science fiction and fantasy over the past twenty years?
Corporatisation of mainstream publishing houses has led to a massive loss of editorial know-how, and to the elimination of the specialised lines and imprints that were sustained by that know-how. The rot really set in when marketing people began directing editorial decisions, instead of serving them. It’s great that the small and indie presses do so much to keep the flame alive but it’s not the same.
And btw, 39 was Rob Hansen’s convention membership number, not his age.