Douglas Smith is an award-winning Canadian author whose work has appeared in twenty-five languages and over thirty countries. You can see already why I feel an affinity for him. His fiction includes the urban fantasy novel, The Wolf at the End of the World, and the collections Chimerascope, Impossibilia, and La Danse des Esprits.
Doug is a three-time winner of Canada's Aurora Award, and has been a finalist for the John W. Campbell Award, CBC's Bookies Award, Canada's juried Sunburst Award, and France's juried Prix Masterton and Prix Bob Morane. A short film based on Doug's story "By Her Hand, She Draws You Down" won several awards when it toured film festivals around the world.
I took the short cut to Canada, via Greenland, and our teams of huskies sniffed around each other as we dismounted our sleds and settled down to drink tea from thermos flasks and talk about writing and translations.
GJ: How did your first translated sale come about?
DS: It was 1998. I had started to sell my short fiction regularly by then. Somewhere (in Locus, I think), I came across a reference to a German anthology series that was looking for stories, including stories originally published in English, which would be translated at no cost. I sent them two stories that I'd already sold in English, which they accepted for two separate anthologies, one SF and one fantasy.
GJ: Did you set out to lead the way in translations, or did it just happen by accident?
DS: I'm not sure I'd say I'm leading the way. There are other writers, Frank Roger, most notably, with more foreign language sales than I have. Currently, I've sold stories in thirty-one countries and twenty-five languages.
No, I had no plans or expectations that I'd end up selling so many foreign language reprints. I just enjoyed the idea of having my stories read more widely, in other countries and other languages. Plus it's found money. And there's a fun factor too, Foreign language reprints bring the chance to see your name alongside of some of the biggest names in fiction. Even when I was starting out writing short fiction, my foreign language sales let my byline appear with the likes of Steven King, Neil Gaiman, Larry Niven, Kristine Kathryn Rusch, Tanith Lee, Neal Stephenson, Orson Scott Card, Frank Herbert, not to mention James Branch Cabell and H.P. Lovecraft.
GJ: What led to the development of the Foreign Market List?
DS: My first pair of sales to those German anthologies got me interested in foreign language markets, so I started to research how many might be out there. The industry magazine, Locus, ran articles periodically reporting on the current state of science fiction and fantasy in other countries, and these articles often mentioned local short fiction markets in those countries. From there and from Google, I gradually built a list of the various non-English short fiction genre markets around the world.
Since I found it useful, I assumed that other writers might as well. I was also looking for something to add some extra value to my brand new website, so once the list grew to a sizeable number of markets, I added it as a feature to my site. Having it on the website also brings the advantage that writers and editors regularly provide me with updates, additions, corrections to the information on the FML, so everyone gains since the list is kept as current and accurate as possible, thanks to all the various interested parties.
GJ: Is there a language you’d really like to be published in?
DS: Hmm. Interesting question. I've never really thought about it. Esperanto would be fun. And maybe Welsh, since I'm part Welsh on my dad's side.
GJ:You write a variety of SF, fantasy and horror. What appeals to you about writing in those different genres?
DS: As a kid, I read widely across speculative fiction genres, especially SF, fantasy, and mystery, but general fiction as well. So when I began writing, it just seemed natural to write across genres.
As a writer, I don't feel restricted by one particular genre. I can tell any story I can think of in the way I feel is best suited to that story idea. I really don't think about genre when I write. I don't think "oh, this is an SF story. I can't do *that* in an SF story." Which is probably why I tend to mix genres not only across the stories I write, but within a story as well. As a reader, I've always enjoyed stories that mix genres. One of my favourite writers, Roger Zelazny, was a master of "science fantasy", stories which have the veneer or trappings of fantasy, but have a core logic of SF, stories like "Lord of Light" or "Jack of Shadows."
Not being restricted to a single genre, there are fewer (no?) limitations to the types of stories that I can tell. The stories still need an internal logic and consistency, but I'm not bound by any concerns of matching current reality. That is wonderfully freeing for a writer.
Also, as a writer, I appreciate the power of speculative fiction as a literature is, to paraphrase the great SF anthologist Damon Knight, to hold up a distorted mirror to our current reality, to focus on some aspect of our world which needs to change (in the writer's opinion). It's that "if this goes on…" type of story that allow speculative fiction to provide a social commentary in a way that mimetic fiction cannot.
Spec fic can use other worlds--future or alternate--to focus on aspects of our real world, our shared beliefs, our conflicting beliefs, our humanity, our inhumanity, our potential, our failings, to let us view ourselves through a different lens, at a slightly different angle. Speculative fiction, by the very nature of its unreality, can make us see our reality in ways that mimetic fiction cannot. How we relate to those views, which messages resonate with us as individual readers, can then tell us something about ourselves.
GJ: Which publication are you particularly proud of, or excited about?
DS: After many years of writing only short fiction, I was excited and proud of my first novel, the urban fantasy, The Wolf at the End of the World. It was a sequel to my award-winning novelette, "Spirit Dance" (which, btw, has been published thirty-two times in twenty-one countries). The novel picks up five years after the events of the short story and features the same cast of characters plus a set of new ones.
Here's the back cover blurb:
A shapeshifter hero battles ancient spirits, a covert government agency, and his own dark past in a race to solve a murder that could mean the end of the world.
Cree and Ojibwe legends mix with current day environmental conflict in this fast-paced urban fantasy that keeps you on the edge of your seat right up to its explosive conclusion.
And if you're talking about pride, I'd point to this quote from one of my writing heroes, Charles de Lint, who wrote the introduction for the book:
"I can’t remember the last time I read a book that spoke to me, so eloquently, and so deeply, on so many levels. ... I’ll be rereading it in the future because it’s that sort of book. Richly layered and deeply resonant. An old friend, from the first time you read it." —Charles de Lint, World Fantasy Award winner
I'd also mention, since we're talking about short stories, my guide for short fiction writers, Playing the Short Game: How to Market & Sell Short Fiction, which came out in October.
GJ: You’re first novel was The Wolf at the End of the World. Are you concentrating on novel-length fiction now?
DS: Yes, I am. I still plan to keep writing short fiction, but my focus is and will be on novel length works.
GJ: What do you have planned for the rest of the year?
DS: I am currently 96,000 words into the first draft of a new YA urban fantasy novel, which I'm guessing will end up at about 120,000 words when all done and edited. It's the first in a planned trilogy and I can't remember when I've had this much fun writing anything. It's set in Toronto and features two teenaged protagonists, a love story, astral projection, body swapping, rune magic, very creepy villains, and a most unusual superhero.
DS: Thanks for inviting me!