Eva Maria Chapman has successfully pursued a variety of careers; teacher, academic, psychotherapist and director of an energy efficiency company. In her career as author, she is a genre hopper. Her first book Sasha & Olga, a memoir, charts the adversities of her Russian refugee family, before and after emigrating to Australia; her second, Butterflies & Demons, unveils the extraordinary past of the Kaurna Adelaide Aborigines, combining historic fiction with fantasy. ‘Russian Roulette 2020’ is her first foray into Science Fiction and has inspired her to embark further into this genre. She is now writing an optimistic novel set in the future. She lives in happy seclusion in a wildlife sanctuary on the edge of Exmoor, England, with her husband Jake. When not writing, or growing vegetables, she likes to make (and wear) hats, party with friends, and frolic with her grandchildren.
Charles Tan: Hi! Thanks for agreeing to do the interview. First off, what’s the appeal of science fiction for you?
Eva Maria Chapman: I have been put off by recent Science Fiction as I found a lot of it dystopic and often too smart arse and fantastical. What grabbed me about Jetse’s appeal is that it fitted in with my view of what SF has been and can be again, (1) show people something about latest advances in Science and how it may develop in the future and (2) the enormous potential of SF to actually influence people’s view of the future. I believe we do create the future with our thoughts. I think SF should posit scientific and technological advances that are in the realms of possibility to happen. So near future works for me better than 1000s of years hence.
CT: Considering “Russian Roulette 2020” is your first science fiction piece, what made you decide to finally write science fiction and contribute to this anthology? What were the challenges during the writing process?
EVC: I was inspired by Jetse’s call as I believe as writers we can influence how people approach the future.
The challenges were huge. I had to understand where the world was at right now- both financially, technologically and scientifically. So I did a lot of research and picked the brains of my husband (a Physicist and avid SF reader) in order to realistically imagine a world 10 years hence. Jetse’s was a tough remit. I enjoyed the challenge enormously.
CT: One of the themes in your story is the conflict between sustainable development and technology. How do you foresee the two co-existing?
EVC: I believe that the conflict lies between greed and sustainable development. When greed drives technology, sustainable development is compromised. Technology should be the handmaiden of aware human beings, helping the world evolve sustainably.
CT: What made you decide to become a writer?
EVC: Believing I have something to say and contribute, perhaps even a little wisdom dare I say. I want to expand on Russian Roulette 2020 and write a book where the characters face formidable challenges in the 2020s and attempt to overcome them. I would like to intersperse the chapters with the adventures of Frank Wu’s characters Guidolon and Trisuron (who appear in the story as heroes of MV and Rada) in graphic form (either comic, graphic novel or video). I would like to mix SF with romance and fun, as well as amazing technology and hard fought solutions. Frank Wu has expressed an interest in such a collaboration.
CT: In the bio on your website, you mention at how you had a haunted childhood. How did you manage to retain your optimism and not give in to cynicism?
EVC: Well I could write a book in answer to that. And actually did. ‘Sasha & Olga’ (Lothian 2006) in which I had to garner any shred of optimism to face some dreadful things in my family and it’s history. The fact that I was instrumental in helping my angry, pessimistic, deeply cynical and bitter father, die a happy man, has given my optimistic molecules a real boost.
CT: Do you think writing in general is capable of changing the world?
EVC: I do actually. If writing can persuade people that they are in charge of their own destiny and it gives realistic examples of how people can overcome obstacles to do so, that is a huge step forward. Several people all over the world , for example, have written to me and told me how they were spurred to reconcile with family members after reading ‘Sasha & Olga’ .
CT: What are the challenges in starting a new career as a writer? How are you overcoming them?
EVC: The first big challenge is polishing and practising the art of story telling; to use the amazing intricacies of language in an effective way. Fortunately I am retired and have plenty of time. The next big challenge is facing rejection ( and unfavourable reviews!). Jetse’s acceptance of ‘Russian Roulette 2020’ was a great boost. He is also helpful in what he says about submitting stories to editors. Just keep submitting, he says. There is a huge variation in personal taste. If it is good it will eventually grab someone somewhere. So keep trying.
CT: Anything else you want to plug?
EVC: I want to plug Shchetinin’s Tekos School in Southern Russia which really does exist. I’d heard of it and wrote Russian Roulette 2020 before I visited last September. I was blown away. This school is even more amazing than I had projected into 2020. It really does churn out 16 year old geniuses.(real Science Fiction in many ways!) After submitting RR I realized an error in the story – the quotes MV saw in the school should have been in Russian. However in one school building I found a similar quote to the one in my story ‘We can’t predict the future but can create it ‘ and it was written in English! That gave me goosepimples. Tekos School will definitely be the training ground of my superheroes of the future.