interview by Joe Vaz

From Issue 11 (July 2011)

Where is home?

Home for me has always been Jozi. I am a big fan of the country and wide-open, quiet spaces but at heart I am a city girl. I like the beat and the energy and the multifaceted quality of living in Joburg. I doubt I could ever leave!


You sent us an interesting picture. What is that clockwork contraption behind you?

It’s one of the few photos of myself that I like. I visited my sister in Basel, Switzerland and we went to the Tinguely museum there. He was a crazy, mad artist/inventor type. Behind me is his two metre by about six metre mechanical music-maker. It was one of the coolest things I’ve ever seen. In the photo, I’m trying not to lose my balance and fall over backwards into it.


How did The Silver City and the Green Place come about?

The ideas were something that I’d been wondering about for a while and then we were required to write a short sci-fi piece for university. I hit on the sentence “I dreamed of a green place where I could no longer go” and the story grew naturally around that.


What do you think is happening to Core – is she becoming more human, and how does one define that?

I find it very difficult to speculate on what goes on inside Core’s head because she is something so fundamentally different to me. It’s one of the reasons for keeping her so peripheral in the story, simply because I don’t think I could understand her thoughts enough to write them credibly. I do think that she is becoming more complex and that is something we have for a long time associated with the ‘humanisation process’.


What are your personal feelings on the creation of this type of AI/Human?

I’m excited. Honestly, I think that when we do achieve a machine (in the fairly loose sense of the term) that can become aware of itself and of us, it will be incredibly beautiful. We’ll be able to learn things about our own species, the things that are universal truths and products of the uniquely human perspective that we will share with this machine.


Where does Core go from here? How do you think her newfound consciousness will affect how she relates to her creator?

I wish I knew. I hope though that she becomes more and more of what the elderly scientist dreamed for her – a unique personality (where person doesn’t automatically imply human), a new kind of intelligence to see and be seen.


You came to us as a horror writer originally, but a lot of your more recent stories are moving towards Science Fiction – why is that?

I really enjoy the horror genre and I think that its much underrated and under-utilised, but I also think that it’s a lot harder, for me certainly, to express more complex themes and ideas in horror. My horror in the past has tended always towards the horror-comedy (I read a lot of Lovecraft when I was younger and consequently sometimes struggle to take horror writing seriously!)

I’m just not a strong enough writer yet to be able to express the conceptual and emotional ranges that I need to in horror. I think that, as a genre, science fiction lends itself more naturally to that kind of introspection.


What writers inspire your work?

I’m incredibly lucky in that I have a family with excellent literary taste! Writers that I have been exposed to and who have influenced the way I write include Neil Gaiman, Philip K. Dick, Garth Nix, Ursula Le Guin, Isaac Asimov, Kate Griffen, H.P. Lovecraft (although I’m not sure that his influence was for the better!) and the usual crowd of Golden Age sci-fi greats and classic writers who laid the foundations of the body of knowledge and ideas that every writer will draw on in some way during her career.


When did you first start writing?

I started writing seriously in about grade 8 at high school, and am very glad that particular manuscript is never going to see the light of day again!


What was your first published story?

“Making Waves”, which appeared in Something Wicked Issue 6, was actually my first published story.


How old were you at the time?

I was fifteen when I sent it in and about sixteen by the time the piece was cleaned up enough to be of printable standard.


For someone so young you seem extremely dedicated and disciplined in your writing, do you have any advice for other young writers out there?

Play. As much as writing is a discipline and editing is a royal pain, stories are supposed to be fun. My best writing is done when I sit down and wonder how my university maths class could be improved by the addition of a small zombie apocalypse. It’s about saying “wouldn’t it be awesome if?” Once I’m thinking like that, once I’m playing with ideas like that, then the story or the scene or the series that I’m working on flows very naturally.

If I’m having trouble with a piece, I often write something silly or profoundly terrible that I have fun with and which reminds me of why it’s cool to be a writer.


Are you working on anything right now?

I generally have a couple of stories floating around at any given time, especially now around exams when I really ought to be studying. There are some pieces in the works that I’m enjoying a great deal.

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Joe Vaz

Joe Vaz is the founder and editor of Something Wicked, which occasionally affords him the honour and good fortune to hang out with really cool people.
In his other life he is a film and television actor who gets small parts in big movies, most recently in Dredd 3D, due to be released in December 2011.

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