The ‘Use Only As Directed’ Interviews: Janeen Webb

3 08 2014

In quite possibly the same sense that Janeen Webb, whose story ‘Future Perfect’ is the penultimate one in Use Only As Directed (the anthology edited by Edwina Harvey and myself), saw her own short-story collection Death At The Blue Elephant released the same weekend that UOAD was launched, I’ve recently learnt that her interview for the anthology is also a doppelganger of a sort, since she has also very recently been interviewed as part of the Australian Speculation Fiction Snapshot for 2014.

Here are Janeen’s comments on how her story came to be:


What should readers know about you before they sit down to read ‘Future Perfect’?

That’s a difficult question. At the end of the day, the story has to speak for itself. But, if pressed, I will say that my own world view is complex: for me, there are no black and white answers – so my stories tend to explore life’s uncertainties. I am interested in people: in the process of writing I drop my characters, with all their emotional baggage, into unconventional  situations – just to see what they will do. They  often surprise me. I hope they’ll surprise you too.

What provoked you (or, if you’d rather, encouraged you) to tell the story you did? What was the germ of the idea that led to it?

The brief for Use Only As Directed seemed perfect for a story about medical technology. I was playing with the ‘prevention is better than cure’ scenario, and I set out to create a machine that would take accident victims back in time just far enough to avert their catastrophes – to make their accidents unhappen, so to speak. But I couldn’t get the technology to work convincingly. So I turned the story around to make this failure into a feature, and it became an SF crime story – ‘Time Machine’ meets ‘Hustle’ – with the flawed machine at the centre of the scam. The idea is that the reader will see the con, but the target characters do not – they are too busy being important to imagine that the underlings they have trampled upon might be plotting revenge. If you’ve ever had a narcissistic numpty for a boss, this story is for you.

If you were told you were only allowed to keep one sentence from the published story, what sentence would that be, and why? 

I can think of a lot of ways to answer this question. In the end, I’ve decided to go with something simple:

“He (Nigel) was as trapped as the white mouse.”

Why? This works for me because the entire story of ‘Future Perfect’  is an extended game of cat and mouse. The basis for the plot is a laboratory experiment, and the story twists and turns as the protagonists negotiate a very dangerous maze.

Your collection Death At The Blue Elephant (Ticonderoga Publications) was released the very same weekend as Use Only As Directed. What has the reaction to the collection been like, so far?

So far so good: it’s early days yet, but the response to date  has been very positive. The people who’ve been kind enough to write to me have all chosen a different story as their favourite, so that’s a good sign (my own favourite is the last one in the collection, The Sculptor’s Wife, but what would I know?). I’m truly delighted that this collection is out: Russell Farr at Ticonderoga did  a fantastic job of producing it;  it has a fabulous Nick Stathopoulos cover; Pamela Sargent wrote a wonderful Introduction; and the inimitable Russell Blackford launched the book at Continuum. Thanks guys!  I’m heading off to London to promote the collection at Worldcon, so fingers crossed.

What are you currently working on, and what would you like to tell readers of this blog about your current endeavour?

Writing is a slow process for me.  I always have several unfinished stories on the drawing board, waiting for inspiration and opportunity to come along.  I have promised to finish the third book in my YA series, The Sinbad Chronicles, so I guess that’s next. I’m a bit superstitious about saying anything much about work-in-progress, mostly because such things have a habit of never going to plan – so I’ll just say that I’m out here, quietly writing away whenever I can.


If you’d like to find out more about Janeen’s writing — and I shouldn’t pass up the opportunity to mention the other story of hers it’s been my pleasure to co-edit, the distinctly unsettling’Hell Is Where The Heart Is’, in the CSFG Next anthology of last year –her website is at www.

If you’re now feeling motivated to read ‘Future Perfect’ and the other stories in Use Only As Directed, the links are here: (PBB (publisher, pbk, epub, pdf, mobi); Amazon (mobi))

Tomorrow’s interview: Dirk Flinthart, ‘The Eighth Day’.



One response

5 08 2014
Joseph H. Lindsley

Check local book stores for Death at The Blue Elephant and any other of Webb’s books.

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