Today we hear from Michelle Goldsmith. When I was collecting stories for my issue, I was having trouble finding horror fiction to balance the SF and fantasy. I knew Michelle was reading for a horror magazine and it was her area of interest, so I asked if she had anything I could look at. At the time, she had only made one sale.
I was absolutely thrilled when her story, "Of Gold And Dust", made it into Best Australian Fantasy And Horror.
Well, it was certainly Australian! Very much so, with the Ballarat gold fields and the bush. The creature in the story was never identified - that would have been appropriation. But it felt Australian. Was the story horror? Perhaps darkish fantasy, but too gentle to be called horror in the usual sense. And that was fine with me. It was too good to miss out on.
Since then, Michelle's short story writing career has been impressive. I am delighted to have been one of her first publishers.
I'll let her tell you all about it!
For this story I wanted to write something distinctly Australian and that covered an aspect of our history I thought was underexplored. I was also hoping to write something that captured a real sense of the time and place in which it was set, and which had resonance with readers.
In "Of Gold and Dust" I also attempted to create a unique speculative element that felt like it legitimately belonged within the Australian landscape, but without appropriating particular Indigenous spirits or monsters or importing a common speculative trope (like a werewolf or vampire) into the setting. (Not because I don’t think an Australian werewolf or vampire story can work, but because it just wasn’t what I wanted to do).
The first time I tried to draft this story I was aiming for something quite a bit shorter and it didn’t work out so I put it aside to percolate for a while. About six months later I came back to it for another attempt and it came together a lot more smoothly.
I live in Melbourne, Australia, where I work as an editor and journalist (specialising in technical topics) for my day job. Before that I was a bookseller for over five years.
I have a BSc (majoring in Zoology/Evolutionary Biology) and a Masters degree in Publishing and Communications. This year I’m starting my PhD, which will look at cross-genre literary/speculative works and also involves a creative component.
I’ve had short fiction published in various places both within Australia and overseas, and been short-listed for both the Aurealis Award and the Ditmar Award.
I think I prefer to write speculative fiction because it isn’t as confined by the limits of realism, and therefore has the potential for a lot of interesting experimentation. My preference is usually for something just a little removed from our reality.
To be honest, I usually don’t think about what genre I’m writing in until I have to submit a story, but my stories almost always end up speculative to some degree.
I haven’t been the most prolific author over the last few years, mostly due to a range of chronic health problems making it difficult to balance work, study and time to write. (Hopefully that will change now that study and fiction have been combined!) However, the stories I have had published seem to have been well received.
My ASIM story was republished in The Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2014, which was exciting!
"The Jellyfish Collector", a story which was originally published in Review of Australian Fiction, was shortlisted for an Aurealis Award for Best Fantasy Short Story. It was also republished at PodCastle in 2016.
My first pro-paying sale of original fiction was "Love Story, an Exorcism", which was published at Gamut in January this year. That one is probably my most confronting story so far, but people seem to have really responded well to it.
I always seem to have a lot on the go! First and foremost I’m working on developing the shape of my PhD short story collection and starting the first stories for that. It should end up as a linked short story collection consisting mainly of what you might call ‘weird fiction’ and working in a kind of liminal space between ‘genre’ and ‘literary’ categories. It will likely focus a fair bit on ecological themes.
I also have some unrelated short stories that are calling to me and a science fiction novel (plotted and about a quarter written) that I plan to finish when I get the time.
If you want to see what Michelle is up to, you can find her at http://michellegoldsmith.net and she is on Twitter with the handle @Vilutheril.