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Russell Blackford

answers the Usual Questions

Australian author Russell Blackford; photograph courtesy his official website

Russell Blackford

Russell Blackford is an Australian writer, philosopher, and literary critic who says he loves to talk about ideas.

Has your interaction with fans, for example, at conventions, affected your work?

Yes, to the extent that participation in fandom has been a big part of my life. My experiences in fandom have fed into my work in exactly the same way as the rest of my life experience has fed into it. Some of the weirder sub-cultures that I've described have doubtless been influenced by first-hand acquaintance with aspects of the fan sub-culture.

Is there any particular incident (a letter, a meeting, a comment that stands out?

Not really, if we're talking about direct influence on my writing. But through fandom - and through other connections with science fiction - I've made many amazing friends ... including some of the people I most love and some people whom I admire greatly (William Gibson comes to mind as an example). I've done a lot of professional networking, have had lots of great times. I cherish the memories and the ongoing friendships, and I'm glad about the opportunities that have come my way - e.g. the chance to write regularly for The New York Review of Science Fiction and submit to some strong anthologies, such as the Datlow/Windling Black Heart, Ivory Bones and Jack Dann's two Dreaming anthologies. But it's difficult to identify one specific stand-out experience that has actually affected my writing.

Do you have a favourite author or book (or writer or film or series) that has influenced you or that you return to?

There are just so many of them. Robert A. Heinlein, Samuel R. Delany, William Gibson, and on and on. I don't agree with Delany on everything, but there's no one I respect more - as a writer, as a critic and student of the science fiction genre, as a teacher (his advice on style is brilliant). Movies? I guess the biggest influence is the bleak, gritty science fiction cinema of the late 1970s and the 1980s - the early Alien/Aliens movies, The Terminator, Blade Runner. Then, of course, there are all the philosophical writers who've influenced my view of the world - Epicurus, David Hume, Bertrand Russell, and on and on it goes. Oh, and poetry ... I always return to Yeats and Coleridge, for example.

Who is the person you would most like to be trapped in a lift with? or a spaceship?

Someone who is very kind and patient.

Who is the person you would most DISlike to be trapped in a lift with? Or a spaceship?

Any religious fundamentalist.

What would you pack for space? (Is there a food, beverage, book, teddy bear, etc that you couldn't do without?)

I'd need my loved ones. I'd need an endless supply of good wine and cheese. I imagine a lot of time would be spent in conversation with the loved ones while drinking the wine and eating the cheese, so I'd also need an endless supply of Zantac. I'd need books and more books - there'd have to be some kind of data base with huge amounts of reading material available. And, of course, I'd need to be able to write.

What is the most important thing you would like to get/achieve from your work?

Bear in mind that my output of fiction is only one component of my work as a writer and editor. I'd actually like to have some influence on the world - spread my memes. There's so much intolerance and irrationalism in the world - I can get pretty worked up about it, and I'd like to have some effect in fighting it.

What is the special satisfaction of your work?

Ah, that's different. Delany talks somewhere about how the process of writing and revising is one of continually doubting and wrestling with the words. That's my experience, too. I write very quickly and fluently by most people's standards (though not by the standards of professional writers). But I'm never satisfied with my first pass at a story or an article, or whatever I'm writing. Probably not with the second pass, either - or the tenth. I eventually rework the language so much that I can't imagine how whatever it is I'm writing could possibly have been written by little me. And it couldn't have been, not in real time. The satisfaction is when I come back later and I find - amidst all the flaws that, alas, I still see - passages that seem as if they were written by somebody else who knew what he was doing! Passages where the detail is vivid and textured, and the prose rhythms are compelling. I'm always amazed to see that I was able to do that. It's as if I've somehow produced something that's better than I am. Which I probably have, at least in those passages. During those moments, I'm especially satisfied, but I also wonder whether I'll ever be able to do it again.

submitted by Russell Blackford

January, 2009

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Just the facts:
Born: Sydney, Australia
Resides: Newscastle, Australia
Bibliography/Awards: see his web site

Web site: Official web site
Blog and Talking Philosophy


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