I love reading about how each story in this great anthology came about. Adam’s story went right over the top and stayed there, for me. I read Inferno in old issues of Galaxy Magazine that I'd unearthed in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv second hand bookshops - at least, two thirds of it, I had to wait till I got home to Australia to find out how it ended. And I loved Riverworld. Who would have thought these two works would have helped inspire this delicious bit of steampunk?
‘The D____d’ could hardly have sprung from anywhere other than the meticulously warped mind of Adam Browne. Adam’s precision of language, his care with tone and his exquisitely rococo style of world-building make his writing a joy to read; ‘The D____d’ is vintage Browne.
I remember reading Adam's story, "The Girl from Bora Bora" and thinking "That's so different, but oh so right." I felt the same way when I read "The D- - - - d" He shines with his own individual genius. And it was great to meet him at Continuum 8.
|Adam and friend with their ASIMS|
The story: Adam's thoughts
I work at an academic library. I’m a library assistant, sometimes abbreviated to ‘library ass’. There are a few of us here, nonlibrarian librarians, all artists of some breed or stripe.
I’ve done many shitkicker jobs to support the writing habit, and this has been the best of them – an environment where you work with books -- and a culture that’s egalitarian to the extent that if you’re erudite, then you’re respected (quite a relaxed environment too, evidenced by the fact that I’m writing this on work time…)
Another advantage is that they ‘weed’ books here, take them out of circulation; ah, feeding time! Vulturely, we squawk and squabble over the dead or dying monographs, stealing them away to our lairs or gory aeries. One I recovered was on the Solar System, written in the early 1960s, but quite visionary (someone said that with hindsight, speculation about future technologies is often seen to be almost ridiculously conservative). I no longer have the book – I weeded it from my own collection a few years ago -- but there was a tidbit in there, a juicy flap of liver, that nourished this story.
The passage was about terraforming: it said ‘trying to terraform Venus would be like trying to terraform Hell.’
Where writers usually turn things to metaphor, I literalised it.
I started working on the story maybe five years ago. I floundered, lost control of it; when I thought it was finished, I sent it to an editor of a prominent Australian sf/f magazine, a very nice fellow who’d once said he’d accept almost automatically everything I submitted.
He rejected it. His notes, and those of another editor, suggested it should be steampunk; there were other suggestions I tried too.
I floundered some more -- until late last year, after contracting a friendship with the excellent Anna Tambour. She told me she would have something in the antho, and would like to share the TOC with me.
I took another stab. I added Richard Burton to the story, of whom I’d first heard from Philip Jose Farmer’s Riverworld books (I should mention, too, that I read Niven/Pournell’s Inferno a dozen times as a teenager; I’d loved the science fictionisation of a literary creation - early postmodernism - I’d wanted to set a story in Hell ever since.)
A few times in my career I’ve had to wait until I was sufficiently mature as a writer to exploit a certain idea. It happened once before with a story of mine called ‘Neverland Blues.’ It was the case here also. I’m a bit worried the story’s not perfect, that the writing’s too economical and twisty, if that makes sense, for the reader to relax into it, but I’m still a bit too close to it to tell.
But at least it’s done. Vladimir Nabokov once said something about writing a story in order to be rid of it. Now, at last, I’m rid of ‘The D____d’.
Adam Browne, 48, lives in Melbourne, Australia. He won the Aurealis Award for best sf short story in 2002. His first novel, Pyrotechnicon: Being a True Account of the Further Adventures of Cyrano de Bergerac among the States and Empires of the Stars, by Himself (dec'd), will be released by Coeur De Lion http://keithstevenson.com/CDLblog/2012/05/23/the-art-of-pyrotechnicon/ in September this year. His blog can be found here:
Adam says: I did the internal illos - here's a spooky one; he's a Black Frantic, one of the villains.
- and a depiction of the moment Cyrano approaches the moon in his elephant-shaped spaceship (he gets so close he starts to suffer menstrual symptoms) - the latter is for sale at Signed and Numbered, in Greville Street, Prahran, a suburb of Melbourne. http://www.signedandnumbered.com.au/