Today we’re pleased to have Eugen Bacon as a guest on the Virtual World Fantasy Convention blog. Eugen is African Australian, a computer scientist mentally re-engineered into creative writing. Her work has won, been shortlisted, longlisted or commended in national and international awards, including the Bridport Prize, Copyright Agency Prize, Ron Hubbard's Writers of the Future Award, Australian Shadows Awards and Nommo Award for Speculative Fiction by Africans. Her creative work has appeared in literary and speculative fiction publications worldwide, and 2020 sees the release of: Her Bitch Dress (Ginninderra Press) The Road to Woop Woop & Other Stories (Meerkat Press), Hadithi (Luna Press Publishing), and Inside the Dreaming (Newcon Press).
This year’s Virtual World Fantasy Convention 2020 will be Eugen’s first WFC.
WFC2020: Welcome to World Fantasy Convention, Eugen. We’re glad you’ll be participating in this year’s virtual convention – all the way from Australia! We love “first” stories. How did your first novel sale come about?
EB: After lots of rejections that I refused to shrine, I became a serial submitter, flaunting my book to anyone who’d listen because I believed in it.
One day I got an email from a publisher who sounded very excited. It was Tricia Reeks of Meerkat Press. She was practically falling off the screen with enthusiasm.
“We’ve read a sample of your work and want to do a full read. Is the manuscript still available? We don’t want to commit to a full read if it isn’t.”
Read the darn thing already! I thought. But I said, “The book is available.”
Tricia said she’d get back to me in 2 – 8 weeks. The next day, an email: “I just want you to know we’re 15% into the reading. The prose is quite exquisite. Just to clarify. I’m a bit into the book.”
Like a lot, I gathered. In a day or so, another email: “I’m on holiday with my bestie at a beach. Get back to you Monday.”
Monday – I had an offer to publish. This was Claiming T-Mo.
This was a publisher worth waiting for. Tricia is so invested in Claiming T-Mo, I couldn’t be more excited than she was by the reviews. We’re both thrilled it made the longlist of the 2020 Nommo Awards for Speculative Fiction by Africans.
WFC2020: It’s so amazing when your publisher becomes an enthusiastic champion for your book. If people aren’t familiar with your work is that where you’d recommend they start?
EB: Two books I’m most proud of are Claiming T-Mo by Meerkat Press and Writing Speculative Fiction by Macmillan. They are both fun and playful, and embody who I am. The reviews tell you why these books are special. They are also kindred in that they’re both from my PhD: one the creative artefact, one the (de-scholarised) dissertation. Published the same year, different publishers—how good is that!
WFC2020: They embody who you are, huh? Publisher’s Weekly said about Claiming T-Mo, “Bacon explores a four-generation alien family saga in this gleeful, wacky debut." So I guess that means you’re a bit wacky! We can’t wait to get to know you better. Tell us about your latest book.
EB: I have a novella coming out in December 2020—Inside the Dreaming by NewCon Press. It’s black speculative fiction that’s also detective, an origins story about finding oneself.
As an African Australian who’s grappled with matters of identity, writing black speculative fiction is like coming out of the closet. It’s a recognition that I’m Australian and African, and it’s okay—the two are not mutually exclusive. I am many, betwixt, a sum of cultures. I am the self and ‘other’, a story of inhabitation, a multiple embodiment and my multiplicities render themselves in cross-genre writing.
An excerpt from Inside the Dreaming:
He knew from the start about twins.
And while the people of the land no longer cast new-born identicals at the edge of the forest for the dingo to take, twins still carried ill luck. Despite this knowledge, Muntu loved Dotto. She was one of twins. But Dotto was also the child of the shifty Chief Mezzanine. The day she was born, three breaths behind her twin Kulwa, the witch man pointed his bone to cast out calamity and save the twins from inheriting the varmint nature of their father.
Where Kulwa’s eyes took the colour of sunshine, Dotto’s sang of diamonds. Where Kulwa’s skin was white as goat milk, Dotto’s was olive, soft as a riverbed. Where Kulwa’s smile reminded of claret orchids, Dotto’s laughter bubbled as eager as thought. But for all those claret orchids, the gods favoured riverbed skin, and within two moons Kulwa, the elder by three breaths, breathed her last.
Despite his knowledge of twins, of Dotto’s laughter that sucked breath from the lungs of her sibling, Muntu loved. In so doing, he wrote his crime. It made him fugitive, trapped in a love that could never be open outside the secrets of a grass hut.
WFC2020: What a great excerpt! That’s going on our To Be Read list. What are you working on now?
EB: I have an afrofuturistic dystopian novel with all female protagonists, set in a social country—it’s looking to find a good home. Also enthusing about a new collection of black SF titled Bla(c)k. It’s exhilarating, this coming out, a freedom to write characters that are others like me. Following in Octavia Butler’s footsteps.
WFC2020: Ah, those are big shoes to fill, but I have a feeling you’re going to do it admirably. What else would you like WFC2020 attendees to know?
EB: If you haven’t read much black writing, it’s out there, on the rise. Anthologies like Dark Matter: A Century of Speculative Fiction from the African Diaspora (2000), edited by Sheree Renee Thomas, are a great start. Collections and anthologies continue to play an important role in the growth of black speculative fiction and Afrofuturistic writing.
Super stoked to feature in Dominion: An Anthology of Speculative Fiction from Africa and the African Diaspora (Volume One). I also have a special story ‘A Visit in Whitechapel’ published in the NewCon Press London Centric (2020). Also Hadithi & the State of Black Speculative Fiction is out this October 2020 by Luna Press Publishing. Please read these books—you won’t be disappointed.
WFC2020: Thank you so much for those recommendations and congratulations on the stories! Thank you for participating in this interview. Where can we find you on the Internet?