What niche and/or reading audience was it projected to fill/satisfy?
I never used to think of audiences when I'm writing, until I got asked to write for younger readers.Now, quite a few kid's books down the track, I know that certain ideas are going to resonate withcertain age groups, for instance that actually having a penguin as a pet would be a disgusting andsmelly business, which struck a chord with 5-7 year olds (
The Penguin Friend
). A story about Kayand Phil was obviously for people who know about them, which means discerning readers of sf.Greg Egan liked it, and recommended it in the
.Most sf fans would know who Phil was, but I included the quotation at the beginning, that she hadthe character of a visitant, to make quite clear that Kay was a real person (and also because itfitted the theme of the story). I've yet to meet anyone who didn't know who they were, but sincethe story was reprinted in
The Penguin Book of Modern Fantasy by Women
, it's possible thereare such readers. Ultimately, though, I wrote it for myself: I wanted to know what was going tohappen. The joke is that the second market I sent it to (a very prestigious sf market too) thoughttheir readers wouldn't be interested in PKD!
Were/are you a fan of SF?
Yes and proud of it (which is what I say when people ask me if I'm a feminist).
At the time you started to write it, were you already a PKD fan/reader?
I'd been reading him for what seems like forever. A lot of my sf education was the MonashSecondhand bookshop. You could walk in there, buy a secondhand paperback mostinexpensively, and if you didn't like it, sell it back to them the next week. That's how I amassedquite a collection of PKD, most of which is now falling to pieces.For many years the Melbourne sf scene has had an interest in PKD. Bruce Gillespiepublished
, an early book of PKD criticism. I didn't know much about him,personally, except that those in the know said he was weird. Then I read the biographies, andrealized he had this terrific mother complex, which was quite repellent, and was also a maritaldisaster area. "Kay and Phil" was one way of reconciling the disparity between the writer and hiswritings, on a personal level, I suppose. Phil is quite a benevolent figure, in the end.
How would you describe the actual writing process for "Kay and Phil"?
Do a page, revise it, do the next page, until you've come to the final full stop, my usual process.Not particularly memorable in this instance. Nothing like the time I rewrote the last chapterof
(my first US novel) instead of going to dinner with the most appalling man inMelbourne.
How much reading/research did you end up doing?
I had written the entry for Burdekin in
The St James Guide to Science Fiction Writers
, and been inletter contact with Daphne Patai, who discovered the Burdekin/Constantine connection, and hadwritten introductions to reprints of her novels. I didn't know too much about her, perhaps ablessing, although I wrote with a copy of
handy, in case of mistakes. For Phil,everything there is from the biographies. All I needed to know specifically was his personalsituation while writing
The Man in the High Castle
. However, at that time the only copies of thebios in Melbourne were in Bruce Gillespie's living room, and he wouldn't let them out of thehouse. I brought Julian Warner along to talk to Bruce & bother his cats while I sat and read, andfrantically made notes.
About how long did it take you from start to finish?
I honestly can't remember. Not long, I think. No more than a few weeks at the most. In the middleof it I went off to a conference in Wagga Wagga (non-Australian readers should know I am notmaking that name up), and left early because as I said to people at the time, I had a storycooking.
Any particular problems/difficulties (vs. other stories/books you have done)?
The trick was to get them in and out of their respective fictional worlds and not lose the readerutterly in the process. I wasn't sure what was going to happen, but I went with the flow and it went just right.