Interview with AJ Dalton

By Megan Bond

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As a Lecturer in English and Creative Writing, how does your work influence your writing?
Well, I teach genre-writing, so I need to be able to describe the mechanics of plot-construction (The Hero’s Journey, the moral dilemma, the beats of crime, the beats of suspense, etc), how to set a scene effectively (the 5 senses), how to build character, literary device, prose style (‘enactment’, Latin v Anglo-Saxon, etc), and more. And all of that needs to be exemplified via excerpts from genre literature. All of that technical and academic understanding/appreciation of genre… of course increases the quality of my own writing.
 
You explore a lot of creative and fascinating topics relating to Science Fiction and Fantasy in your academic work, where do you begin to form your ideas/arguments?
My ideas and arguments can only come from reading that SFF about which I write. Ideas do not come from a vacuum, deep space or a shop down the road. With critical analysis, the nature of genres and sub-genres (their mechanics and themes) can be identified.
 
Have you ever assigned your students to read one of your novels? (Be honest!! All teachers do!)
Novels… no. However, I have guided them to some of my academic writing about SFF: for example, the prize-winning Gender Identity and Sexuality in Current Science Fiction and Fantasy, not to mention the rather awesome The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy. Ahem. But it’s the sort of academic and critical understanding I want students to develop of genre… and their own writing. Oh, and then, admittedly, I have used short excerpts from a couple of my books (The Book of Angels, The Book of Dragons, Empire of the Saviours, etc) in order to exemplify particularly literary devices, motifs and techniques.
 
Who inspires you in the fiction and academic world?
Who inspires me? Hmm. Ah, growing up, I was a massive fanboy of John Marco (Jackal of Narr, US fantasy/dark science writer). Once I became a known writer myself, I messaged him and we did mutual interviews for our respective websites (www.ajdalton.eu). Now… wait for it… drum-roll… we are working on a collection of stories together. It’s called The Book of Witches, which will be out in 2020. I did a historical/academic introduction for the book about how witches have evolved and always been persecuted – the insights from that work inspired some creative responses from John, myself and a few other writers.
 
What are your favourite novels/stories to explore and analyse?
Haha. Do you know, last week, I taught The Hobbit, to exemplify The Hero’s Journey, ‘high fantasy’, New Historicism, and so on. I hadn’t read it since I was a kid. It was a totally different experience reading it as an adult. Unlike when I was young, I am now extremely uncomfortable with the fact that there isn’t a single female character in The Hobbit (apart from oblique references to Belladonna Took). The book certainly doesn’t pass the ol’ Bechdel Test, does it?
 
A J Dalton lectures in English and Creative Writing at Middlesex University. Adam has published ten novels to date, including science-fiction, fantasy and literary fiction.
His main trilogy (Empire of the Saviours) with the publisher Gollancz Orion was listed for the Gemmell Award. He has also published best-selling titles such as The Book of Angels with Grimbold Books.
In addition, Adam has published academically on science fiction, fantasy and horror. Indeed, his latest book – The Satanic in Science Fiction and Fantasy – is now available. If you would like to know more, his website is www.ajdalton.eu, where there is advice for aspiring writers and plenty to interest fans of SFF.
The sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature 2016; Gender identity and sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction 2017; A Shadow Within: Evil in Fantasy and Science Fiction; The Satanic in Fantasy and Science Fiction (release date at Eastercon April 2020).
Luna Awards: Nominated for the BSFA Awards 2017 for The sub-genres of British Fantasy Literature.
His article, “Gender-identity and sexuality in current sub-genres of British fantasy literature: do we have a problem?” is included in the British Fantasy Award 2018 Winner, Gender identity and sexuality in Current Fantasy and Science Fiction, edited by Francesca T Barbini.
 
The Satanic in Fantasy and Science Fiction will be out on 7 April 2020.