By Kerstin Hall
Duncan Reyneke rejects the idea of a Skype interview, being somewhat camera shy. As he currently resides in South Korea, a face-to-face interview is also out of the question. I don’t have the kind of airtime that allows cross-continental interviews, so here we are, conversing over Facebook chat.
Reyneke’s book, Nails In the Sky, was released earlier this year, courtesy of new SA publishers Fox&Raven . And, for the Rhodents in the audience, it’s covering home turf.
“Nails in the Sky is a spec-fic story that revolves around a Rhodes University student and his relationships with his friends and family. Also, a bunch of weird and exciting sci-fi shit,” Reyneke surmises. “People begin disappearing. When they do, nobody but Alex remembers they ever existed. He’s not a dashing, wonderful man without flaws – I explore that.”
There were some setbacks and time delays in the process of publishing the novel, pushing it back from an October 2014 release to a release this year. In the fragile world of dream-selling (i.e. authoring), this amounts to a very long time in the life of a writer. I questioned the impact the delays had on the state of Reyneke’s mental health.
“I’ve followed up on the process obsessively from pretty much the first day, and Marius at Fox & Raven has been really patient in talking me through each step,” says Reyneke. “We hit some delays, sure, mostly due to timing and bad luck, but I’m glad I stuck the whole thing out.”
Well, yes, because now he has this. Behold!
Now that I have established Reyneke is one of the elite authorfold, it’s time to get down to the really important questions.
“Do you own a pair of writing pants?” I ask.
“TMI: It’s pretty-much boxers. Pants are way restrictive.”
“Describe yourself in three words, all starting with the letter D.”
“Dishevelled. Distracted. Diminutive.”
I am a real journalist.
Reyneke is twenty-eight and studied at Rhodes himself till 2010, majoring in English and Anthropology. He claims that he wasn’t exactly a “model student”. But with some help from the English department’s administrator Carol – “ she put up with a lot from me – the woman is a saint” – he finished his degree. Despite the distance, he still keeps up-to-date with the university’s business.
“I support the name change at Rhodes,” he declares. “It’s not hard to see why name changes are important in SA, especially if you’re willing to accept the lasting legacy of Apartheid in our country, which is undeniable. It’s an active step we can take to heal the wounds of the past, instead of always talking about reconciliation, and, if not at Rhodes, then where?”
Having covered some more serious stuff, I slot in another quick fire round.
“Favourite book cover at the moment?”
“Anything by Joey HiFi. He appeals to my comic sensibilities. Fletcher, or Zoo City, probably.
“Favourite SA writer at the moment?”
“Margaret Atwood uses the term to refer to a ‘no Martians’ type of science fiction, but what does ‘speculative fiction’ mean to you?”
“This is pretty reductive, but since discovering speculative fiction as a genre, I’ve thought of it as sci-fi without the Asimov. Modern settings, where science fiction stuff goes down. No hover cars. More subtle.”
In the hopes of finding amusing anecdotes, I ask Reyneke about his experiences in Korea. He does not disappoint. Interesting fact: The children Reyneke teaches in Korea find him unusually hairy. Thus “the sea of little hands reaching out every morning to stroke my forearms like a cat is one strange aspect of working here.”
“I’m sure that this time next week, I’ll be up to my hairy neck in children, and will deny ever having said all this,” he says.
Reyneke’s Writing Playlist
God is an Astronaut
Card on Spokes