EWF At Home Residency Q&A: Josephine Newman

In 2020, EWF is proud to present EWF At Home Residencies, a program that supports emerging writers by offering time and financial assistance to work on their craft.

Josephine Newman is one of six writers selected for the At Home Residencies program undertaking a fortnight of creative work, supported by EWF, in November and December.

Congratulations on being a recipient of our EWF At Home Residency! Tell us a little bit about yourself.

Thank you! I’m excited to be involved.

About me? Gah I’m always useless with this question! 

I’m 26, I was born and raised on Whadjuk Noongar country but my family is Yamatji from around Meekatharra. I struggled a lot with my identity growing up because I’m really frickin’ white, so I’m putting a lot of work into reconnecting with culture and being respectful and learning about my place now that I’m a bit older.

I studied environmental biology and writing at uni, and worked in science communication for a bit before my chronic illness said no. Now I spend a lot of time in bed, reading or watching movies or doing embroidery or writing. Or sleeping. Honestly? Mostly sleeping haha.

What project will you be working on during the Residency? 

I’m currently working on a series of short cyberpunk detective stories. I’m kind of obsessed with our (humanity’s) relationship with technology. I like gritty, near-future settings. I think artificial intelligence is fascinating. Cyberpunk just seemed like a natural next step for me, so I thought I’d give it a go! I’m calling the project ‘Wetware’, because I’m playing with a lot of brain-related stuff, and also I thought it sounded cool.

What do you love most about science fiction and cyberpunk?

Science fiction: so much, honestly. I like that it’s not tethered to reality (though it can be if you want it to). I like it as a space to encounter new ideas, and reconsider old ones. I like spaceships and robots and thinking about humanity, about the things that we’ve done and the things that we could do. I like that it’s fun.

Cyberpunk is a bit tricker. I have a lot of issues with cyberpunk, but I think it has a lot of potential, and there are some real gems out there. I’m currently reading Hammered by Elizabeth Bear, and that’s hitting on a lot of the things that I feel are missing from some of the earlier stuff that came out in the 80s – her main character is a woman, for one thing, and disabled, for another.

What’s your favourite horror movie and why?

I love the Conjuring franchise, it’s just good fun. I think these movies were the ones that really got me into horror. Before that I was a big sook and wouldn’t watch anything remotely scary even if you paid me.

The movies that stick in my head long after I’ve watched them tend to tackle real-world issues in some way. I really liked The Babadook and Relic for this reason. Pretty much anything that deals with memory or perceptions of reality is gonna be a winner for me. I also enjoy stories-within-stories; I Am the Pretty Thing That Lives in the House has haunted me since I watched it. It’s slow though, so don’t go into it expecting jump scares.

The Haunting of Hill House isn’t a movie but definitely has to be on this list somewhere. It’s so atmospheric. The editing is so clever. The story is so incredibly sad.

What themes come up most often in your writing?

Technology stuff, for sure. I like to think I do more than just “technology bad, human good”. I’m interested in the nuance, why we have so many anxieties about the stuff that we make, what decisions lead us in good directions and not-so-good directions.

I also tend to write a lot about identity and relationships, the parts of ourselves that we feel like we have to hide, and what happens when there’s a disconnect between how others see us and how we see ourselves.

Thanks Jo – we’ve loved chatting to you!