From Modern Mythcraft to Magical Surrealism

Stephanie Campisi

I’m not so much into labeling things and dividing things neatly and slotting them in here and there and trying to align them as though they are pieces of something purchased from Ikea, but acknowledge that people are pretty reductive, as are marketing gurus, so it’s something pretty inevitable.

CampisiStephanie Campisi, author of Painting Walls in the Town of N—, was born in the eighties, is unapologetically a child of the nineties, and feels vaguely anachronistic in the noughties. Home is in the inner north-west of Melbourne, Australia, in a small flat where she spends less time than she probably should. A recent graduate of the University of Melbourne, she now works as a publishing editor for a large company and is inordinately proud of not yet having flipped a burger of any description. She spends far too much time mulling over apostrophes and syntactic ambiguities. When not indentured within such admittedly self-imposed nerddom, her free time is spent rather unevenly between her much-loved book collection, Melbourne’s bars, and, occasionally, the odd cafe, where she masquerades as a writer of sorts whilst staring pensively out of a window. Her work has appeared, or is slated to appear, in venues such as Fantasy Magazine, FarThing, and Shimmer, and anthologies including In Bad Dreams through Eneit Press and Paper Cities through Senses Five Press. She is currently writing her first novel.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Much to the dismay of my friends and family, anything you do or say around me is fair game. Happily for me, I find that this influences their behaviour in such a way that not only are they as a result fascinatingly lucid and well-spoken, but also unfailingly nice–it’s as though I am a one-woman panopticon. I steal shamelessly from other authors, newspapers, magazines, dreams, and of course, my own experiences.

What author do you admire and hope to be compared to someday?

As awfully narcissistic (and unlikely, but hey, this is Fantasy Magazine, so I imagine flights of fancy are quite allowed) as it sounds, I’d love to be up there with the Parmuks and Ecos and Calvinos and Burroughses and Gogols and Rushdies and so on of the world. Those who say bugger off to those plot-first people and instead mire themselves in language, toying with it and stretching it to a point where it’s almost broken. There’s nothing wrong with getting one’s mitts a little grotty from linguistic wallowing–I always feel that those who look for transparent forms of writing are perhaps better suited to another medium. And to be able to write with some decent insight into humanity and human motivation in the style of Dostoyevsky and Chekhov and Oe and so on would probably not be something to complain about, either.

What author do you admire yet hope never to be compared to?

Solzhenitsyn (not that this is in any way likely, anyway). He’s akin to eating Brussels sprouts–though you know they’re good for you, three failed three attempts are probably an indication that they’re probably not your thing.

Is Star Wars science fiction or fantasy?

What a deliciously ambiguous sentence!

I’ll take the intended reading and say that although I’m a bit anti-Star Wars myself, and have avoided it rather assiduously since childhood, I’d be perfectly content to stick it pretty generally under a fiction banner, or if I must streamline a little more, then speculative fiction. I’m not so much into labeling things and dividing things neatly and slotting them in here and there and trying to align them as though they are pieces of something purchased from Ikea, but acknowledge that people are pretty reductive, as are marketing gurus, so it’s something pretty inevitable.

Tell me a little about Painting Walls in the Town of N—. What was the first image or phrase or impetus that made you sit down and spin it out?

I have a document on my computer that contains the sentence ‘we painted the wall with cracks’, which was obviously the image that kicked off the story. Beyond that, I’m not entirely sure where it came from, or how it came to be. It did sit unfinished for months and months on my computer whilst I tried to figure out what on earth to do with it. . . I suppose it was an odd story in the sense that I had absolutely no idea where I was going with it.

Dear me, Stephanie, what on earth were you thinking?

Although this is a question I get asked rather often, it always delights me, because it means I’m doing something right. Well, in some sense, on some level, at least.


You can find Stephanie online at Misapostrophication; a full bibliography can be found here.

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