SpecFic Spotlight: A. J. Fitzwater

SpecFic Spotlight: A. J. Fitzwater

There are easy answers and there are hard answers. If you’re in the whimsical, 30-second-Oscar-speech mood, what fuels my writing is tea, dragons, and the steely blade of Joanna Russ. The harder answer is: I want to make a difference.

Many people like the precision: the “I knew what I was and wanted before coherent thought”. The young successful artiste. The blockbuster by the age of 25. A shelf groaning beneath awards. The brilliant obit.

But I’ve never approached life the easy way. I had no clue that writing was for me until my mid-30s. I glommed onto science fiction and fantasy in my teens, Anne McCaffrey and Melanie Rawn especial favourites. I dabbled in romance writing in my early 20s, thinking it easy money (it was, but it wasn’t emotionally fulfilling). I thought my career as an advertising copywriter would fulfil my creative desire: it didn’t.

Then in my mid-30s I was challenged by various friends to write audio scripts, and revisit trunk stories. They weren’t great…but they had potential.

I’d often thought of short story writing as belonging to high school classes, or to high-minded literature elites. Then I started researching the world of speculative short stories (digital and online publishing has created an expanding market), reading the incredible James Tiptree Jr. I discovered the form was an excellent fit for what I wanted to say, and how.

In 2010, I had very little idea of New Zealand’s large speculative community. They embraced me with the vigour that only our little corner of the world can do. I sold my first story to a New Zealand magazine, Semaphore. Since then I have made friends with and been mentored by so many wonderful New Zealand authors.

My writing journey hasn’t been fast, incredible success. It’s been about a few choice stories published in great venues on top of hundreds of rejections. It has been slow and steady progress, sometimes a few steps backwards (as 2011 can attest). My biggest steps forwards have only been recent: attending the Clarion Science Fiction and Fantasy workshop in San Diego in 2014, and being awarded the Sir Julius Vogel Best New Talent 2015 gong.

Daughters Of FranksteinI write on diverse, feminist-intersectional themes. I like to experiment in style. This might not mean my work is always accessible to everyone, and one piece that may have drawn one reader in doesn’t automatically predispose the reader to liking another piece. I’m okay with that. I want my writing to be remembered for its big ideas, not big bucks or sales or awards.

My most approachable work is being released soon, a coincidence of publishing fate meaning two complementary stories set in my “River City” steampunk animagus world come out within months of each other. The first is the novelette “Long’s Confandabulous Clockwork Circus and Carnival , and Cats of Many Persuasions” in Andromeda Spaceways Inflight Magazine #61, and a sequel-ish “The Long Trip Home” in Lethe Press’s anthology “Daughters of  Frankenstein: Lesbian Mad Scientists” due out in August.

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