Lee Murray's Speculative Fiction Show - Peter Kirk
Welcome to Lee Murray’s New Zealand Speculative Fiction Show, an interview series featuring star acts from NZ’s science fiction, fantasy and horror community, including news, insights, and sneak-peeks of their latest performances.
Today’s guest is Peter Kirk, a Kiwi who’s jumped the ditch to Australia. Peter is a writer and editor, and, more recently, the publisher of Breach, an online magazine of original science fiction, horror and dark fantasy short fiction from New Zealand and Australian authors.
So tell us about Breach, Peter. What made you decide to jump into publishing?
Hi Lee, thanks for having me. Breach is an online magazine of SF, horror and dark fantasy fiction with a focus on Australian and NZ authors and illustrators. Each issue is probably the best thing you’ll read that month.
Like most good ideas, Breach started at a pub. You know when you’ve been mulling something over for ages and then after a few beers it all comes out? One minute Art and I were sharing a jug and chips, the next it’s “HEY LET’S START A SCI FI MAGAZINE, IT’LL BE AWESOME.” I think we convinced ourselves we could make money.
Of course, it could have stayed at the pub, but then my health packed up and I ended up having back surgery and a short stay in hospital. If there’s a better impetus to starting something new than the boredom of a hospital bed and high doses of ketamine, I don’t want to know about it.
Any reason for deciding to focus on Australian and New Zealand fiction?
I read a lot growing up. No surprises there, but it took a long time for me to realise the majority of authors I grew up with were either American or English. Stephen King, Asimov, China Mieville, Philip K Dick, Hemingway. All white dudes too! So I guess this is my way of correcting that, by introducing and working with Kiwis and Aussies. We’re a weird little pocket of the world and it’s pretty cool that we can help get some of our unique voices out there.
You’re now in issue *5. What kind of response have you received from the speculative community and in literary circles in general? What plans do you have for the publication?
We’ve had really great feedback pretty much right from the start. We’re getting more and more submissions, and stronger stories each time. It’s a wonderful, supportive community to be part of. Writing can be a solitary task so it’s nice to get out of your own head and talk to people, even if it is just on Facebook.
Once we have #6 out we’re going to collect #1-6 in a paperback version with some new stories. I want to publish some longer works, from novellas to full-length novels. And if the stars align, we’ll hold a short story competition later this year.
As an editor, would it be true to say that your preferences tend toward the dark side?
I’ve never considered it, to be honest, but looking back at what we’ve published so far it’s a fair call. Maybe it’s a bit of a kiwi gothic type of thing. We’re all drawn to the darkness down here, right?
Certainly it helps if a story jumps off the page and kicks you in the stomach, and the gut-kickers tend to be the dark and scary ones. Maybe we should do a “happy sci fi” issue to balance it out?
We just love good writing! That’s partly what attracts us to the short story form. You can’t hide many faults in a 1500 word piece of fiction. Every sentence must be necessary. Characters, plot, dialogue, setting, all the complex machines of fiction that are so damn hard to get right, but when it works, man, it’s the best.
What classic children’s SF and fantasy tales will you be reading to your kids to inspire them with a love of the genre? Any contemporary titles you’d recommend?
It isn’t fantasy, but we’re making our way through Wind in the Willows right now, one page at a time. I love the Earthsea books, The Hobbit, Roald Dahl. I’ve always thought China Mieville’s Un Lun Dun would be fun to read aloud. Lots of word play. It might be a while before I read them anything from Breach, but hopefully they’ll think it’s cool their dad publishes a sci fi magazine instead of putting them off the genre for life.
Stories from Breach have popped up on several literary shortlists, including New Zealand’s Sir Julius Vogel Award and Australia’s Aurealis Awards, and you’re also an award judge for this year’s Australian Shadows. Is writing all about awards? What does literary success look like to you?
I wouldn’t say it’s a goal at all. What is great about awards is getting stories in front of people who may not otherwise have read our mag. Respected people in our field have read our stuff – and they liked it. Who wouldn’t love that? It’s incredible to me that we get fanmail and messages of support from complete strangers, people who came across Breach their own way and then loved, say, Alf Simpson’s The Plant Room so much they had to write an Amazon review for it. My mum doesn’t even do that!
One of our main goals is to have the funds to pay our writers professional rates, and attract bigger names so we can publish them alongside first-time and emerging authors. But right now we’re happy building our little family of writers and illustrators.
Tell us about your own writing projects. What are your working on right now?
Most of my time is spent working on Breach these days but every so often I’ll sit down and bang out a story or two. I’ve got a zombie musical in the works, plus a dozen other things that may or may not ever get finished.
What are you watching on Netflix right now?
I’ve just finished Altered Carbon, which I thought was fantastic. I’m still undecided on Star Trek Discovery – it can be a lot of fun but also pretty terrible. Sonequa Martin-Green is great though. She deserves a lot better writing than Discovery and the crap they pulled on The Walking Dead. Don’t get me started on that show! Other than that, I’m pretty stoked there’s a couple of seasons of Grand Designs up now.
Marmite or Vegemite?
Marmite. No question.
Come on, admit it, you really miss our pies, right?
Every day! There’s a great little bakery near my office that does a fantastic organic beef and vege, but my quest for a classic steak and cheese or bacon and egg has so far been a bit of a fizzer.
Bio: Peter is a Melbourne-based writer who, after one too many rejection letters and far too many beers, decided to seize the means of production by founding Breach.