The OF Blog: Zoran Živković Interview

Tuesday, December 14, 2004

Zoran Živković Interview

Thanks again to her for doing this for me. Zoran Zivkovic is a Serbian author of books such as The Fourth Circle and the Book/the Writer that have recently been translated into English. I consider him to be one of the better writers out there today and hopefully this interview Lotesse conducted will help convince others here to read his works.

Q. Who would you say are some of the writers that influenced you the most? After reading the Book/the Writer, I couldn't help but think of Jorge Luis Borges and his Library, so I'm just curious.

A. I would say that Luis Borges' influence is more evident in another book of mine—The Library. Many authors contributed, one way or another, in forming me as a writer. Sometimes it's rather hard, even for myself, to identify various influences, although there are many intertextual references in my fiction. I believe my entire reading experience is contained in it. Everything I have ever read, although may seem partly forgotten on the conscious level, is always very vivid and active in my subconscious—and that's where all my fiction comes from. So, I am not going to pick out specific authors and say that they influenced me the most. All of them were equally important and I am equally grateful to all of them.

Q. I read where you used to be an academic that focused on science fiction. What would you say are some of the differences between being one who reviews what others have written and writing fiction yourself, in terms of focus and preparation?

A. Although reviewing is also a responsible and creative job (or it should be, ideally), it's less demanding and ambitious than the actual literary creation. It is one thing to interpret a world and another to create it...

Q. Why speculative fiction? What made you choose to focus on that rather than some other literary field?

A. Why do you think I am a speculative fiction writer? Besides, what is "speculative fiction," after all? No, I consider myself a writer without any prefixes, because they can be either limiting or misleading. I like to define myself as "a humble practitioner of the ancient and noble art of prose writing." Nothing more, nothing less.

Q. Your books have begun recently appearing in English translation. What are some of the differences you've noticed between American publishers and editors compared to ones in Serbia?

A. There are practically no differences. Since you have read my novel The Book, you had a chance to see how difficult their lives could be...

Q. Any chance of you revisiting the characters that appear in The Fourth Circle?

A. You mean to write a sequel? Something like The Daughter of the Fourth Circle? Or, maybe, The Fifth Circle? That isn't going to happen, most definitely. The covers of my novel are firmly closed, not to be opened again. Besides, what else could I say? That story is fully told.

Q. You've done some work with Fantastic Metropolis, among others. How important do you believe online magazines such as FM and other fansites will become on the speculative fiction publishing industry?

A. Independent fansites are tremendously important in reintroducing democracy in a world dominated by the publishing industry. They are here to show that there are other values in fantasy writing beside being just another way of making profit.

Q. How do you approach writing a story? Do you have a particular ending in mind, or do you begin with an idea and just write from there? Or is it a combination?

A. I suggest you read my afterword to the limited US edition of The Fourth Circle (Night Shade Books, 2004). I have extensively explained there how I write.

Q. The Fourth Circle and the Book/the Writer are already available in the United States. When can we expect more English translations of your stories?

A. My first book to appear in English translation was Time Gifts (2000). In 2005 two more books of mine will appear in English: Hidden Camera (Dalkey Archive Press) and Impossible Stories—a "mega" collection comprising my five story-suits: Time Gifts, Impossible Encounters, Seven Touches of Music, The Library and Steps through the Mist: a total of 29 stories. The new UK magazine "Postscripts" just brought out, in issue #2, my recent novelette Compartments, while my latest book, Four Stories till the End, will be serialized also in "Postscripts" (#4–#7). So, by the end of 2005 all my fiction will be available in English.

Q. What trends have you noticed developing in speculative fiction recently, both in Europe and the Americas?

A. There are currently many excellent young and relatively young authors who are forming the prevailing trend in the world speculative fiction (however you define it). Let me name just a few of them: Jeff VanderMeer, Jeffrey Ford, K.J. Bishop, Paul di Filippo, China Miéville. They are the future classics of the art of fantasy writing.

Q. What do you feel is the most powerful scene you have written? Why?

A. I have no right to answer that question. As an author, I have to be totally impartial.

Q. How would you entice people who haven't read you to do so?

A. I never entice people to read my fiction. That wouldn't be fair. I rather let them discover my humble self by chance.

Q. Did the work of translating fantasy/SF authors to Serbian language influence your writing?

A. Yes. My many years invested into translating eventually paid off as a time of learning from masters how to write.

Q. Are you somehow related to Dobroslav Bob Zivkovic?

A. No.

Q. Over the years, you were editing the SF section of 'Politikin Zabavnik'. Combined with the illustrations of Bob Zivkovic, those stories were responsible in developing my love towards fantasy. What did that work mean to you?

A. If the small seeds I planted through "Politikin Zabavnik" eventually bore some fruits, then I am the happiest man in the world.

Q. When can we expect your next book?

A. I just completed Four Stories till the End. I most definitely need some break. Remember, I am already 56...

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