Andi C. Buchanan lives among streams and faultlines, just north of Wellington, Aotearoa New Zealand. Winner of a Sir Julius Vogel Award for their short story “Girls Who Do Not Drown” (Apex, 2018), their fiction is also published or forthcoming in Fireside, Kaleidotrope, Glittership, and more. Their 2019 novella From a Shadow Grave (Paper Road Press) uses a historical murder as a launching point into narratives of multiple possible futures, deploying urban fantasy, historical fiction, time travel and more. You can find Andi on Twitter @andicbuchanan, at www.andicbuchanan.org, or insta.
Q: You’ve adopted two snails, Laon and Cythna. I’m not sure if I want to put my hand in this fire, but: what?
A: Laon and Cythna are my blue mystery snails who occupy a very comfy tank next to my desk. Their names are a SHELLey joke, but frankly their behaviour since has given me some cause to regret naming them after incestuous siblings (that said, I was pleased to find out that what I had assumed was a penis is actually a scuba style tube used to suck in air from the surface). They have very pretty blue shells, are surprisingly fast, and like slithering to the top of the tank and then leaping off into the water. They’re very fond of blanched spinach.
Q: From a Shadow Grave bridges two people separated by an ocean of time. Aroha’s the savior we all need … I can’t help but marvel at how you’ve woven the spiritual with the real. How did the idea come to you? What made you want to breathe life back into Phyllis, and how does your own experiences in Wellington dog the footsteps of the story?
A: Thanks Richard! How it started… as some readers will know there’s a tradition of hooting in the Mount Vic tunnel, and there are various theories as to why, but one of them is to ward off the ghost of Phyllis Symons. And that started bothering me – thinking about the ghost of a pregnant seventeen year old who’d experienced a lot of hardship, including domestic violence and ultimately murder at the hands of her partner. So I started writing. Initially it was almost a letter through time to this young woman and then it grew into a novella. I wanted to experiment with different possibilities and subgenres, and it took shape from there.
I really wanted it to feel like Wellington, and setting it historically took some research and some exploration. I walked along streets characters had lived on or built. I found out where the cinemas were – some had survived into my lifetime, most hadn’t. I think there was a sense in which Wellington was both the big city for Phyllis and stifling – she was seventeen, of course she felt stifled, especially given the economic depression – and I wanted to capture some of that.
Q: You’re hitting the supermarket for road beers and jerky. You find the doors open but the place deserted. The tiles in the entranceway are torn up, and there’s something that might be blood. Choosing any three fictional heroes, how do you fix this?
A: This… actually feels like a very real scenario right now – our supermarket decided to do a full reorganisation of its stock at the exact time people decided to panic hoard toilet paper. I’m staying the hell away from everything. So far no actual blood, but I reckon that’s more by luck than by design.
There’s always a mundane explanation and a not at all mundane explanation to these things. Perhaps a lump of concrete fell, hit a local vampire who had a bottle of blood in their bag for afternoon snacks, broke a bunch of tiles. Unsure of the stability of the building, everyone evacuated using the proper protocol to the assembly point at the park across the road.
So the first hero I need is none other than Bob the Builder, who will confirm the safety of the building and make immediate adjustments to ensure safety. Secondly, Rose Lorkowski from Sunshine Cleaning can get blood out of anything. And then thirdly, I’m going to call on Gurronsevas from the Sector General series, the best chef on six legs, who can rise to any occasion involving a crowd of hungry people. It might not go well exactly, but it will certainly be interesting.
But you were thinking something got through from a hell dimension and dragged customers and staff through with its claws? Well that’s a different matter entirely. Hell dimensions are notorious bureaucratic hell holes so I need someone who is good at learning to understand all that hell-government red tape and help us come to a diplomatic solution. Mahit Dzmare from A Memory Called Empire would be perfect. But if it does come to fighting, I want Gideon Nav on side – I mean, have you seen the size of those biceps? And if we need to transport a lot of people back quickly, well the easiest way to do it is by enlisting Ton-Ton, the blue Ankylodump from Dinotrux.
I trust my answer to this question has adequately showcased the range of media I consume.
You should meet Phyllis yourself in the excellent From a Shadow Grave. Do eeet.