DUFF Interview: Marlee Jane Ward

DUFF, Down Under Fan Fund, Marlee Jane Ward, Earl Grey Editing, DUFF Interview

The Down Under Fan Fund is designed to promote connections between fandoms in Australasia and North America. This year DUFF will send one delegate from Australiasia to Worldcon in San Jose in August. Voting is open to all interested fans, regardless of nationality. It closes 31 March.

Marlee Jane Ward is the sole candidate this year and joins me today for an interview.

First and most important: what’s your favourite beverage?

If we’re talking alcoholic, I’m a cider kind of gal. Non-alcoholic – I’m a coffee drinker. It’s lucky I live in Melbourne.

How did you get started in Australian SFF fandom?

I became huge fan of Aussie SFF in my YA days, there was some great stuff coming out in the nineties, so I cut my teeth on Isobelle Carmody, Victor Kelleher, and Gillian Rubinstein. The highlight of my last few years was the Speculative Fiction Festival at the NSW Writers Centre in 2017, getting to spend time with Cat Sparks, John Birmingham, Margo Lanagan, Garth Nix – I was fangirling so hard, I didn’t even care. I started taking writing seriously because I was so inspired by the Aussie SF scene, especially at the NSWWC Spec Fic festival in 2013, where I met so many writers I’d been reading and hearing about for years. I’ve tried to make it to Continuum every year since I’ve lived in Melbourne – it’s a great con and I love being part of the SFF community here.

What Australian speculative fiction have you recently loved?

Ida by Alison Evans. I was so into that beautiful, quiet, evocative story. I liked Cat Sparks’ Lotus Blue, especially the vivid landscapes. I adored Jane Rawson’s From the Wreck, I love how her work integrates genres like it’s nothing. And of course, my partner Corey J White’s novella Killing Gravity, aside from my obvious bias, it’s such a rad story, right up my alley.

You’ve been very open about your journey with mental illness. What are your thoughts on the way mental illness is portrayed in science fiction?

Honestly, I don’t see it much. I could be reading the wrong books, but I don’t know. It seems like a forgotten aspect of life when it comes to SFF. Could that be because of stigma? I guess that’s why I’m so open about it, to normalise it and start on erasing the stigma. I want to see people managing and thriving with mental illness, because that’s my story, and everyone wants to see bits of themselves in fiction.

What’s coming up next for you?

I just finished the third book in my Mirii Mahoney series, I’m working on some short stories, writing a memoir I’m not sure I’ll do anything with, planning my next novel, and generally trying to keep afloat as a writer. When I think of the future, it’s just pacing myself out to write more books, which doesn’t leave room for a lot else!

What are you most looking forward to about WorldCon 76?

Making new friends! Seeing old friends. Learning new things and discovering new authors. I’m especially looking forward to the specific creative buzz you get from being around creative people – I think that’s the thing I like the most about cons.

Marlee Jane Ward

Marlee Jane Ward is a writer, reader and weirdo from Melbourne. She’s a Clarion West alum and her short fiction can be found at Terraform, Aurealis, Apex, Interfictions, and more. Her debut novella, Welcome To Orphancorp won the Viva La Novella Prize and the Victorian Premier’s Award for YA Fiction. She likes cats, babes, and making a spectacle of herself.