Regarding the subject of aliens, it does seem pretty right to have a coastal setting, and you use the Maritimes aesthetic to really root the work in real-world stuff in a satisfying way. With “Come-from-Aways,” how did the story start? Was there a particular image you began with?
The idea for “Come-from-Aways” came from an article I wrote for a local magazine about the Shag Harbour Incident, a well-documented UFO crash that took place in the sixties near my home in southwest Nova Scotia. There’s a great little museum in the town of Shag Harbour and several witnesses still living in the area who are happy to chat about the crash.
This is a fairly isolated area of the province with a declining population, and locals use the term “come-from-aways” to refer to people who have moved to the area from elsewhere. Social attitudes can be fairly insular, but we also desperately need immigration, so communities have complicated relationships with outsiders and newcomers. The story explores that relationship to some degree.
There are debates over whether the term “come-from-aways” is affectionate or a pejorative. To me, it was simply an irresistible title for a story about aliens.
You work in board games as well; how does your involvement in that area inform your fiction work? Do you tend to work on multiple projects at once, or do you focus on one task at a time, or one sort of work at a time?
When I first moved to Nova Scotia (I’m a come-from-away myself), I worked as a freelance editor for a while and I ended up doing several jobs for a major board game company. In many ways, I find writing and editing board game rules is the opposite of writing fiction. Board game rules have to be utterly precise and exhaustive. Everything must be explained in such a way that there is zero confusion about meaning or intent. But the best stories are full of ambiguities and unresolved mysteries. I think it’s up to readers to play with them however they see fit.
I tend to work on only one creative project at a time. I now have a full-time day job writing copy for a web design company, so I’m no longer freelancing (although I still love board games). With set hours, it’s a little easier to schedule regular writing time, although I have far less time to write than I’d like.
In the debate over whether it’s a ley line intersection or cosmic dumping ground, did you find yourself favouring one explanation over the other?
Are the pieces of wreckage wondrous artifacts or pure garbage? I think they’re both. I guess it depends on how you look at them and what you do with them.
What’s next for you, Julian?
I’m currently working on a young adult novel, tentatively titled The Wildlands.
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