Elvis dropped in the other day to interview me about my novella ‘Missionary’. He’s living on Mars, disguised as a walrus. I’m sure he’s not the real Elvis, and he’s on Mars to hide from other Elvis impersonators. But he talks sense.
Elvis: This novella of yours, ‘Missionary’…
Me: Glad you mentioned it. Here’s what a reviewer said of the anthology: ‘WOW! So intense, compelling and yet I was so ensnared I could not stop reading. From one story to the next you had to find out what was happening even if you didn’t know how it would end. Exceptional Sci-fi writing, it’s even scares you at the thought of “what if?“‘ So – click here!
Elvis: This is an interview, you can’t say ‘click here‘. Now, you’ve got a tagline for your part of this anthology. ‘Hot lesbian science chicks take drugs to defeat the alien slime monster‘. Is this the story?
Me: Not exactly.
Elvis: How, not exactly?
Me: Well, they’re not hot.
Me: And there isn’t a slime monster, as such.
Elvis: So it isn’t really about hot lesbian science chicks defeating a slime monster?
Me: Well, a bit.
Me: [long pause] Um…No.
Elvis: Then why mention them?
Me: I came up with a scenario for a religious mission that included same-sex partners – women, as it happened – plus an alcoholic chaplain who didn’t believe in God, was ashamed of his womanising, but was accepted into the order as a path to redemption, and so on. The inspiration was actually New Zealand’s Church Missionary Society world of the 1810s, which included all this – even got into gun-running. And they had to find strength in themselves, and that was the actual theme of this story. In space. With atomic rockets.
Elvis: But that’s not why you did the tagline?
Elvis: Why –
Me: To find out, read the story – click here!
Me: Well, I started off writing fiction, way back – I was trained in it, actually, along with the sciences. But I’ve made my name writing non-fiction, here in New Zealand, mostly history, which I did my thesis on and is where my professional work has got international academic recognition. The problem is that New Zealand academic history is a closed shop. With guards.
Elvis: Sounds like Elvis Impersonators Anonymous. You got advised to write your fiction under a pseudonym, didn’t you?
Me: I did. But actually, when I thought about it, why bother? I publish on personal initiative and merit, outside the academy. My cost, enterprise and risk. I was elected a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society at University College in London for my contribution to the field internationally. But the sole response from the academy in New Zealand has been a cascade of malice from strangers – angry professors screaming about my worthlessness in their territory, putting words in my mouth with which to invalidate me, and so on. Not one has had the guts to introduce themselves. I’ve had my stuff plagiarised, been cut out of opportunities, can’t attend their symposia, and when I do object to the defamation I’m told I have no right to impugn their status. Says it all really.
Elvis: Where did ‘Missionary’ come from? A reaction?
Me: No, I’ve written fiction on and off since I was a kid. I had a short story I half-wrote in 2009 about a spaceship stuck in orbit around an exo-solar gas giant and the effort to recover their refuelling robot, so I thought – why don’t I re-work and finish it?
Elvis: You don’t care about what that does to your status in New Zealand’s academy?
Me: I value my opportunities to write, to think, and to explore new understanding in the things that interest me. That can come through history, but for me to value what the New Zealand history academy defines as ‘status’, they first have to conduct themselves in a way that earns my respect and trust.
Elvis: Seems fair.
Me: I mean, it’s not rocket science. I do stuff that interests me. I don’t rule out more history, but it’s more rewarding just now to do the maths and calculate the science and write hard science fiction about hot lesbian science chicks versus alien algae.
Elvis: Alien algae?
Me: Click here.
Elvis: I told you not to say that.
Copyright © Matthew Wright 2015