The Le Guin-terview – Andi C. Buchanan

The Le Guin-terview is a new feature for SpecFic NZ, inspired by the Proust Questionnaire (or, more directly, ReadNZ’s Mansfield Questionnaire and the Sapling’s Mahy Questionnaire) where we put some questions to a local author.

Ursula Le Guin was one of the finest SpecFic authors of our times, and many of these questions are inspired by her thoughts and work.

Our second guest is Wellington-based author Andi C. Buchanan.


      1.  Describe yourself in three words
        Does the exclamation point in disaster!queer count as a word? If not I’ll have to go for something terribly boring like “speculative fiction writer” and this doesn’t seem like it’s going to be a boring interview.
      2. Which living person do you most admire?
        I just don’t any more I’m afraid. I admire attributes. I admire achievements. I admire quiet support and the boring hard work of solidarity. Not people. People are way too messy.

      3.     What do you consider the most overrated virtue?
        Self-deprivation under the guise of protecting the environment [deletes twelve page screed].

      4.     What is your favourite word or phrase?
        Varies by the day, but a teacher friend just told me some of her students call question marks “mystery marks” and I’m quite in love with that.

      5.     Some dreams tell us what we wish to believe. Some dreams tell us what we fear. Some dreams are of what we know, though we may not know we knew it. The rarest dream is the dream that tells us what we did not know.” Tell us about the most vivid dream you remember.
        Oh I had a weird recurring childhood dream about two people fishing by a river and suddenly the giant statue of an evil king rising up behind them. Never figured that one out.

      6.     Writing: what’s the ratio of inspiration/perspiration?
        Cop-out answer, perhaps, but I’m not sure they’re so easily distinguished. There may be writers who get sudden flashes of inspiration while walking along on a summer day and then put the hard work into writing them; I’m not one of them. Inspiration is part of the process of unpicking and developing ideas, bringing together different concepts and finding where they meet in the middle.
      7.   A novelist’s business is lying.” Tell us an interesting lie.
        Human greed makes capitalism inevitable.

      8.     Where have you had the worst time of your life?
        There are a few contenders, but LAX comes to mind. The place where human compassion – or just basic human behaviour like not spitting on the floor between you and the person you’re talking to in the course of your job – goes to die.

      9.     Are you haunted by anything?
        There was an issue with a mongoose…

      10.   If you could live on any fictional planet, which would it be?
        It’s hard to make a good story based on contentment and quiet satisfaction. Planets aren’t imagined for comfortable living, but for conflict or excitement or fear or at best a spark of potential. And where people do live in comfort it’s at the expense of – or at least in willful ignorance of – what’s happening beyond.
        So part of me would love to live on Teixcalaan with its focus on poetry and word games, and its commuter rail system – a commuter rail system is something of a priority – except it’s the heart of a ruthless, everything-hungry empire. And another part of me – the more adventurous part – is entranced by Aecor in To be taught if fortunate except I’m not cut out for that sort of frontier living (without commuter rail systems).
        So perhaps I’m left to hope that out there in the universe there are quiet, safe, beautiful worlds – with excellent railways – unaffected by the necessary mechanics of story creation.

      11.   Complete this sentence: The first story I wrote was . . .
        …Mog the cat fan fiction about Mog pretending to be a horse. It won a prize in my local bookshop competition.

      12.   The last great book you read, album you heard and film you saw…
        Book: Gideon the Ninth! Skeletons! And by a New Zealand author as well. SKELETONS!
        Album and film: I am a disaster when it comes to non-written media. I follow one band, and one band only, first saw Star Wars in my twenties and the Matrix in my thirties. It’s not that I don’t enjoy it just that I… mostly forget about it. I think the last great film I saw was probably The Dark Crystal. It wasn’t the first time I’d seen it – not by a long way – but it was the first time on the big screen (rather than the dodgy and possibly-stolen TV we had in our high school common room). And the last great album? Futurology by the Manic Street Preachers.

      13. Inwards, or outwards?
        Is this a belly button question…? Or something more philosophical on the nature of art? Whether my writing explores society or the individual? If it’s the belly button, then that’s a very personal question, if it’s the latter interpretation I think I’m interested in the interaction between an individual and their environment (in all senses) and how we can make environments that work for people rather than the other way round.

      14.   What’s to gain by silence?
        For me personally? Probably not getting people’s names wrong and thus not experiencing the subsequent embarrassment.

      15.   What have you got coming out soon?
        Paper Road Press have just released my novella From a Shadow Grave – a ghost story set in Wellington. While I’m still working on selling my next longer work, I’ve several short stories coming out in 2020: stories of villages that walk closer and closer to the sea, autistic people indebted to the fae, and apartment blocks that increasingly resemble wasps’ nests…


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