Wednesday, 4 January 2012

Midnight Echo 6 interviews: Stephen Dedman

Midnight Echo 6, the Science Fiction Horror Issue is well and truly out, but the interviews are still going. Today we focus on one of Australia’s most successful short speculative fiction authors, Stephen Dedman, who contributed a science fiction tale focused on the dangers of new technology and child pornography.    
1. What is your favourite Sci-fi horror novel or short story and why? 
Probably “The Shadow over Innsmouth”, because it's so convincing, and because it tricks you into expecting a happy ending until you remember that it's a Lovecraft story. Runners-up would be The Andromeda Strain, which scared the bejesus out of me when I was twelve, and for the TV work of Nigel Kneale, particularly Quatermass and the Pit and The Stone Tape.
2. Tell us about your story and what your influences are?  
A few years ago, I wrote a story called “Desiree”, about a teenager who falls in love with what might be a girl, or might only be software capable of passing a Turing test; he never finds out which, because he can't afford the license fee after the free trial runs out. “More Matter, Less Art” is a sort of sequel to that, where the sex robot had a body. I made the robot a child partly because it would be easier to program, but mostly in response to news stories about things that might or might not legally count as child pornography – Bill Henson's photographs; fan cartoons of Lisa Simpson having sex (and the logo for the 2012 Olympics); children's faces photoshopped over the faces of porn performers; and, of course, real child-sized sex dolls. The Britart content came about because Damien Hirst had also been in the news, and remembering some of the work and statements by Young British Artists such as the Chapmans made me wonder what could and could not be defended by calling it modern art and where the dividing line might be between that and child porn.
3. Tell us something about yourself as a writer that isn't common knowledge?    
I once wrote a non-fiction book for children, Bone Hunters, that made more money for me than any of my novels (mainly thanks to Educational Lending Right, rather than the publisher).
More Matter, Less Art
Stephen Dedman
Modern art is what happens when painters stop looking at girls and persuade themselves that they have a better idea.—John Ciardi
Bianca sat on the bed, watching. “Hello,” she said, smiling. Her voice was as childlike as her body and face, and she rarely said anything else without being spoken to first. Her facial recognition software was good enough that she remembered Boyce’s face, and would smile when she saw him or change her own expression to mirror his. Her eyes could also track him if he moved, and if he turned away, she would say goodbye.
He didn’t turn away, but stood there staring at her as the room grew darker. Neither of them spoke, and a casual observer might have wondered which of them was actually alive.
Zygotic acceleration, biogenetic, de-sublimated libidinal model, a sculpture by Turner nominees Jake and Dinos Chapman, was made up of fiberglass mannequins of children, their torsos fused into one great blob, their heads sticking out at different angles. They were naked but for sneakers, and while the central mass was as sexless as an amoeba, some of the children’s noses were replaced with erect penises and their mouths with round orifices that might have been gaping vaginas or anuses crafted by someone who’d never seen either, except maybe in a porn movie.
The sexually ambiguous childlike figures who populated the brothers’ Tragic Anatomies were also fused together, though in separate couplings or threesomes, and also wearing sneakers as they ambled through a garden of artificial plants. Boyce’s expression didn’t change as he moved from this installation to Death. This appeared to be two sex dolls 69-ing: Boyce knew that the bodies were actually cast from bronze, but the Chapmans had done a remarkable job of making this look like plastic.
A placard nearby lamented the destruction of their piece titled *Hell* in a Momart warehouse fire, and showed a ‘Momart’ Zippo lighter the brothers had designed in response. It also quoted Jake Chapman describing the murder of a Liverpool toddler as ‘a good social service’. Boyce shook his head slightly as he walked out of the gallery.
Biography – Stephen Dedman 

Stephen Dedman is the author of the novels The Art of Arrow Cutting and Shadows Bite and more than 120 published short stories (for a full bibliography, go to He has won the Aurealis and Ditmar awards, and been nominated for the Bram Stoker Award, the British Science Fiction Association Award, the Sidewise Award, the Seiun Award, the Spectrum Award, and a sainthood. He lives in Western Australia, and enjoys reading, travel, movies, complicated relationships, talking to cats, and startling people.

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