For years Anike Kirsten has dabbled with creative writing but only recently became serious about it following the spark of inspiration from friends online and joining writers’ groups dedicated to the improvement of the craft.
Since her early childhood years, Anike had been exposed to countless books in her parents’ collection. Among these were titles from Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, and Michael Moorcock. These authors captivated her imagination and seeded the dream to be a writer, a science fiction writer specifically.
Anike enjoys a myriad of hobbies such as reading, writing, playing the bass and piano, and research topping the list. She has a passion for digging through information and compiling it into organised reports and essays. Her knack for researching helps her with the finer details in her works from physics to sociology, through to make-up and armour. Another top lister in her hobbies is art, specifically digital art. Seeing her work visualised enables her to understand form and emotion, where she incorporates this knowledge into her characters.
Anike hangs out on a few online sites, and being socially awkward (dare to say anxious), the information age is a wonderful time to be alive. Find and follow her on:
Anike’s list of South African science fiction writers was mentioned in Geoff Ryman’s 100 African Writers of SFF: Part Six in Strange Horizons Magazine.
View her bibliography.
》GET TO KNOW ANIKE:
“Writing tickled my fancy from a very young age but I didn’t have the patience to sit down and break out my stories onto paper. When I got to high school and we started writing creative essays, I gradually learned how to tell a short story. It was in my later teen years that I actively began writing fiction.
It started with a couple of short stories that I asked my gran to edit. Being young and confident, I sent them to Penguin and to the Nova Science-fiction and Fantasy Short Story competition. Needless to say, both were rejected but I did get a good critique from Penguin. I sort-of gave up on writing then, only doing a few short essays and a children’s poetic fable, Animal Kingdom, for my daughter as I entered my 20th year of life.
From then, I left writing for a few years and concentrated on art instead, until my husband and I were gathered into a writing group among friends and later joined peer-review communities where I learned so much.”
Introduction To Social Sciences
“It started when I met my husband. Nic was a student studying political science, which piqued my interest. I started tagging along with him to his classes, initially as a way to engage in conversations with him, and that’s when I was introduced to sociology, anthropology, history, politics, and philosophy. It was then that I discovered I have a love of the social sciences.
Social issues have always been a large factor in my life and, in a country riddled with societal injustices, it was inevitable that these issues would present themselves in my creative work. Topics of oppression and discrimination took hold of my ire and I felt it was my responsibility to act against the dystopia that so many South Africans suffer in.”
“I’m a mother of two, Desmari (born in 2007) and Nils (born in 2015), and wife to Nicolaas J. Kirsten since 2012. Right now, I’m a stay-at-home-mom, but that of itself is a full-time job and doesn’t give much time to write. I find I have to make time and sacrifices to get done what I want to. If getting some writing done means skipping housework for a few days, cutting into a couple hours of sleep, or postponing a bath, I have no qualms about it. It narrows down to what I consider an immediate priority.”
“I’m a jack-of-all-trades, master-of-none when it comes to hobbies because almost anything interests me. If it’s an activity that gets me using my brain and hands, it’ll probably become a hobby. Unfortunately, the nights aren’t long and I don’t get to indulge in everything I want to. Months go by before I can pick up a hobby again but if the opportunity presents, I enjoy playing piano and bass guitar, creating digital art, reading, researching, playing PC games (mostly RPG and strategy), or playing tabletop war-games. Writing is a hobby and so happened to become my career.”
Travels Of South Africa
“I don’t think I’ve settled anywhere for long before. Where I am now, here in the Karoo, is the longest I’ve stayed in my adult life. I grew up in the Johannesburg area until my teen years from where we moved to Sasolburg. From there, I’ve stayed in Villiersdorp and Potchefstroom. I’ve also visited several towns and cities, such as Port Elizabeth, Durban, Nelspruit, Bloemfontein, Vereeniging, Pretoria, De Aar, and others.
My experience among the various socio-economic demographics in those areas catered to an understanding the social hierarchy of affluence. I was able to observe people in their comfort zones and how they reacted when those zones were compromised. I take my experiences and incorporate them into the characters I create.”
“Where to begin? I enjoy anything with a thought-provoking story, really. My go-to genres are sci-fi, horror, and fantasy. I grew up on books of Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Michael Moorcock, L. Ron Hubbard, Sheri S. Tepper, J. R. R. Tolkein, Terry Pratchet, and Carol Lewis. I’m sure there are a few I missed but those authors pretty much sum up what I like.
Modern authors I enjoy include Dan Abnett, Graham McNeill, William King, James Swallow — authors I’ve come to know through Warhammer 40k — as well as Greg Egan, Stephen King, G. R. R. Martin, J. K. Rowling, Nnedi Okorafor, Kelly Blanchard, as well as many South African authors in speculative fiction.”
On Science Fiction In South Africa
“We are a culturally rich country, packed with so many stories and a heritage and history that adds colour and emotion to sci-fi. What South Africa lacks is not a community of sci-fi lovers and readers but a variety and number of sci-fi authors. We have a handful who have published, and a few more than that who self-publish, but they’re practically missing from the news. We need sci-fi in South Africa, by South Africans, written for South Africans. We need stories that cast light onto the darkness of injustices that so many South Africans live with, stories of hope and courage, of action and understanding. What’s more, we need press houses that support the genre and its authors, locally and internationally.”
“Dreams are made of these. Most of my ideas come from day-dreaming, when I see or read an interesting concept then speculate on how it would really turn out in physics or in various ideologies, and so on. I play with the possible settings until one strikes out at me. That’s the idea I write down. I usually file it away somewhere and forget about it until I need it and work it around some character arcs. Few of the story ideas I have come from dreams while sleeping. They tend to have a more developed story arc or premise but I hardly remember them when I wake up. I have some good stuff up there, in my subconscious, if I could just find a way to extract them…”
Greatest Challenge In Writing
“Give me quantum mechanics and I’ll eventually research enough to get a basic understanding and write about it. But emotion? I sigh at the idea of writing emotion. It always feels wrong; fake in a way. It’s really challenging to get the right words and describe an emotion or emotional reaction authentically.”
Choice In Genre
“Sci-fi chose me; I didn’t have a say in the matter, or the anti-matter. I originally planned my first book to be fantasy with elements of science, but the further I wrote the stories, the less fantastic they became. That’s when I realised that sci-fi was the best genre for the social themes of my works. I gave in and let it be.”
Dislikes In Stories
“I forgive a lot of ‘errors’ in a story, but what I can’t get passed are two-dimensional characters, unrealistic reactions or thoughts, plot inconsistencies, and stories without a satisfying resolution. Grammar, unrealistic consequences of environment, and monotonous dialogue can be looked over if the story is good and the characters have personalities. I like reading and don’t want to sacrifice a potentially great experience because of a few matters that I may not usually enjoy. It takes a lot to push me away from a book. Oh, and 2nd person point-of-view puts me off. I think I’ve read maybe a couple of stories written like that which I enjoyed.”
On Character Names
“Honestly, I mostly use a name generator. I set in the ethnic or cultural preference, and gender, and get my character names from there. They’re not set in stone and quite a few of them change to fit the culture or heritage, that’s when I sum up the character and look for names that describe, compliment, or contrast the character. Every now and then, a character’s name will just pop into my head and it defines how I build their personality.
In reality, our names are often irrelevant to who we are or who we become, especially in the Western worlds. Traditional names are more likely to explain the circumstances of our birth, be it environmental, emotional, or situational. A name can mean everything or nothing, it can serve as a plot device or merely a label with which to attach the reader to the character.”
“I sometimes read my work and think it’s amazing but sometimes I think it’s completely horrid. It’s a love-hate relationship. Who’d want to read this nonsense? But the ever-critical view of my writing helps me edit and improve. I’m not satisfied with it until I can’t find anything more to improve on by myself, and that has to be limited as well or I’ll never have a manuscript ready to send out for peer-review critique.
I keep a notebook close by at all times where I write down thoughts on how to improve, or what to add and change. I’ll go down the list of suggestions and prioritise them. I mostly cross out anything that won’t benefit the reading experience or plot. I still cringe when I turn my work in to be published, feeling that I could make it better, but that point of perfection is only an ideal: an unrealistic, unattainable ideal. Knowing that helps me let go. You can’t control everything and I’m still learning when to let go.”
To contact Anike, email her at anike [dot] edmr [at] gmail [dot] com