Krissy Kneen is the award winning author of the memoir Affection, the novels Steeplechase, Triptych, The Adventures of Holly White and the Incredible Sex Machine, and the Thomas Shapcott Award winning poetry collection Eating My Grandmother.
Her latest book is An Uncertain Grace – we chat to Krissy ahead of her upcoming event at Muse Canberra.
Your latest book An Uncertain Grace is a novel in five parts dealing with gender binary, human plurality, science/tech and sex in a speculative fiction style. 1. What were you hoping to achieve with the book and 2. How did you juggle all these elements?
When I started writing this it was just for the pleasure of following the ideas to a conclusion. I was reading a lot of New Scientist and Nautilus magazine and I could see how we would use all these new technologies and I just wanted to follow the ideas through till their logical conclusions so I started writing in fragments, always responding to the things that were happening now. I am very excited about the science that is happening now and the new areas that are opening up for us but it feels like we are not stopping to look at the ethical consequences of our current research. The book is really a chance for us to ask those questions, to pause, and to think about the potential positives that this technology can bring but with a nod to the problems that might follow. It was a bit like making a jigsaw puzzle about the future. things came into focus as I followed the ideas.
Do you have a background in science and tech or just a keen interest that influences your writing?
I have always used science as a kind of meditation. I am fascinated by the universe and read about giant astrological things to keep everything in perspective. I almost studied science at university except at the time it was either the arts or the sciences and my strongest subjects were in arts. I think I could have been pushed into science with the right teacher but at the time boys were pushed into science and girls into arts. I keep reading books about the gender inequalities in science and really wish I had had the right supportive teacher in grade 12. Now I just read a lot in that area and go to planetariums and lectures.
There’s some seriously sexy writing in this book, and others of yours, but just how hard is it writing sex scenes?
People do find it hard but for me the sex comes easily. It is a little difficult making sure you are not repetitive but I live life quite sensually so I think it is just a lens I see the world through anyway. Other aspects like structure and character are the things that take a lot of work.
Do you think we’re becoming more open as a society about sex, gender, sexual fluidity?
I really hope so but with change comes a backlash from conservatives so I suspect it will get worse before it gets better. We now know that gender isn’t as fixed as we suspected, there are books with clearly outline this (Delusions of Gender, Testosterone Rex and Inferior for example) but we still quote the old Men Are From Mars crap no matter how much this is debunked in the science. I think we have a long way to go.
Who do you see as some of the most interesting writers around gender at the moment?
I really love Ann Garetta’s Sphynx and essays and novels by Ursula Le Guin that challenge the old binary divisions. I also love Donna Harraway’s Staying with the Trouble. I am also really interested in Carmen Maria Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties and the work of Lidia Yuknavitch in terms of their intersection with sexuality. I have recently read Susan Faludi’s In the Dark Room and that was fabulous in exploring her parent as a whole person before and after her sex change. I loved the book.
What’s on your bedside table/ TBR pile at the moment?
I am reading Flesh and Blood: A History of My Family in Seven Maladies by Stephen McGann and Inferior by Angela Saini and am just about to start The Trauma Cleaner by Sarah Krasnostein.
You can hear more Krissy Kneen on Sunday 19 November, 3pm – 4pm at Muse Canberra. For more info and how to book, visit their website!