Risingshadow has had the honour of interviewing Rjurik Davidson.
Rjurik Davidson is a freelance writer and Associate Editor of Overland magazine. He has written short stories, essays, screenplays and reviews. His short collection, The Library of Forgotten Books, was recently released by PS Publishing. His work has been published in Postscripts, Years Best Australian Science Fiction and Fantasy, Volumes One, Two and Four, Australian Dark Fantasy and Horror 2006, SciFiction, Aurealis, Borderlands and elsewhere. He has been short-listed for the Ditmar Award for Best Short Story three times, the Aurealis Award once and won the Ditmar award for Best New Talent in 2005.
Click here to visit the author's official website.
AN INTERVIEW WITH RJURIK DAVIDSON
- Could you tell us something about yourself in your own words?
I've been asked this a few times now, and I'm never that sure what to say. There are basic facts: I'm splitting my time between Europe and Australia. I work as a full-time writer at the moment.
Then there are things I select but are selective: I wish I had more time to read; I find the world endlessly fascinating; I first studied science at university, but shifted to humanities; I used to do Kung Fu; I've had a bad neck-injury recently; I wish I could live forever, or at least for a few hundred years; I want to see how things turn out.
- You write about the ancient city of Caeli-Amur in many of your stories and in your debut novel. What inspired you to write about Caeli-Amur and its wonders and horrors? Have you always been interested in new weirdish fantasy?
Caeli-Amur is an fantastical city filled with mythic creatures, down-trodden workers, steam-trams, hidden cave filled with lost ancient technology. It's really a bit of a composite of my own interests: Ancient Greece and Rome; industrial society of the early 20th century; revolutionary politics; fantasy and the imagination; ethics when the personal and political come into conflict; what is the relationship between means and ends? The New Weird is really a good place to combine these - perhaps the ideal place to combine them. So a lot of the process was me putting in things which I thought were both cool and interesting.
- Did you intentionally use "The Passing of the Minotaurs" (published in The Library of Forgotten Books / PS Publishing, 2010) as a basis for your Unwrapped Sky?
Originally I thought the novel would simply be about Kata. The story was written as a kind of preface to what I thought would be the actual book, but then things changed, as they do. I wanted to give more of a reflective view of Caeli-Amur, seen from different vantage-points. This, I hoped, would work a bit more like the old realist writers - Zola or Tolstoy, say - whose characters tend to stand in for larger social forces, though they do so in their own particular way.
- Was it difficult to write about the happenings from three different perspectives?
There were certain plot problems which I created by having three points of view. The stories had to interweave, and that mean pretty complex charting of arcs and calendars. But in other ways it makes it easier: you can see the same events or people through different eyes. You see the world through different eyes. That creates drama in and of itself. You get all kinds of nice ironies, like the difference between the way Kata sees Boris and the way Boris sees himself.
- The fantasy world that you've created is filled with different races and beings. For example, you write about Sirens and Minotaurs in Unwrapped Sky. Were ancient myths a source of inspiration to you when you wrote about the different races and beings?
I loved the Greek myths as a kid. I remember the childrens retelling of the Odyssey which my sister and I shared. I read that many times. Something about the classical always appealed to me, and the way they work in Caeli-Amur is interesting. The creatures are able to draw on that classic gravitas, I think, even though they're a little different than in the original myths. I wanted both of those things: a sense of the classic, but also creatures different from the ones you might imagine - at least in little ways which give you a shiver down the spine.
- You write about a coming revolution in Unwrapped Sky in an intriguing and realistic way, because the ruling Houses oppress the poor workers and are unwilling to change things for the better. Did you use any historical revolutions as a source of inspiration for this revolution?
The revolution in Caeli-Amur is again a composite of real-world examples. There are times it resembles the French Revolution, then the Paris Commune, then Russia in 1917 or Turin in the 1920s. Or perhaps it is better to think of it as a symbolic reworking of them. It sets up similar conditions and asks what if? In one sense it's a historical novel, then. In another, more obvious, it's not historical at all.
- I found it interesting that Kata, Maximilian and Boris were all flawed in their own ways. In my opinion the flaws added a lot of depth to the characters, because each of them was realistic and three-dimensional because of the flaws. How did it feel to write about the characters' flaws and traits?
We're all flawed, even if we don't always admit it. We also all face ambiguous choices all the time. In one simple example, we buy goods made in third-world countries all the time. The workers who make these good often work in dehumanising conditions. We survive these decisions, mostly, by repressing that reality. That act of repression interests me. Each of my characters are put in difficult situations where they have to make choices between two different evils. To do so, they have to repress or self-justify. Still, I think the book tries to deal with them sensitively, and we know - in the end - who is mostly good and who is mostly bad.
- I was personally very impressed by the mysterious and horrifying Elo-Talern. It would be interesting to know if you plan on writing more about them?
I'm glad you liked them. They're my real invention - creatures without any external referent. They feature in the second novel, The Stars Askew, more. I'm also considering writing a short story about their origins, probably through the eyes of Elo-Drusa, the main Elo-Talern.
- The magic system, thaumaturgy, in Unwrapped Sky is an inventive and original magic system, because the use of magic may be extremely harmful and dangerous to the magic users. How did you come up with the idea of writing about thaumaturgy and its dangers?
Magic always has to have a cost. I like the idea that thaumaturgy would act a bit like radioactivity. That it would make you sick, or mutated. In this sense, it's a bit of a symbol for science. Scientific metaphors are all through the book, but most obviously through thaumaturgy. For example, it's a fractured science and Maximilian is searching for a unified theory - much as physicists have been searching for a unified theory.
- Are you planning on revealing more things about the wonders and horrors of your fantasy world in the forthcoming sequel, The Stars Askew?
The Stars Askew picks up the story a few weeks after Unwrapped Sky finishes. Things have not gone quite so well as some may have hoped. The novel ventures out into the wider world, into the wilderness but also to Varenis. It's a feast of the imagination. Well that's what I'm claiming anyway.
- What would you say to a reader who's thinking of reading Unwrapped Sky?
Unwrapped Sky is for the intelligent fantasy or science-fiction reader. It's lush and complex, filled with wonders and terrors. It's a book which will make you think. You probably haven't read anything like it before. Read it and share it.
Thanks for having me.