Where do your ideas come from, folks ask. Good luck answering that (aisle 3 at the shopping centre doesn’t cut it, I’ve found). But here’s an insight into the making of my yarn Eromon No More, which I’m bloody chuffed to have included in Jack Dann’s anthology Dreaming in the Dark (now available to order) where it rubs shoulders with some truly impressive talents — and is also a rare occurrence of Kirstyn and myself having a yarn in the same book.
So, I can trace the spark of the idea back to a panel at a Continuum convention in Melbourne (happening again June 9-12 2017) where the absence of variety in high/second world fantasy was noted. Not many old people as protagonists, for instance. And I’d been taken with the portrayal of Lamb in Joe Abercrombie’s Red Country, a damaged soldier trying to find some peace.
I nutted out a short yarn, deliberately generic, in which an old coot and a young thing have fled war for the peace and hard yakka of a farm, only war comes to find them — it was meant to be kind of a satire or a critique, but never really got there.
I sent this to Jack for Dreaming. And he said: Give me more.
My story in Jack’s Dreaming Again remains one of my favourites: his faith and commitment to that yarn kept me in the game at a time when I could happily have given it away. Then, as now, he said to give him more. Now, as then, I went looking.
The original skeleton of the yarn remained much the same, but I tapped the feel of a fantastical Australia (most of my yarns are set here, one way or another; I need a very specific reason to not set a yarn in my country) I’d conjured up for another story, Wraiths (Winds of Change, 2011) to breathe life into the setting and add some cultural nuance.
But where did those two characters come from? They’re probably a construct or amalgam of stories read and watched, maybe even some D&D played, their characters assembled consciously and subconsciously … Who knows? Aisle 3 is as good a suggestion as any.
I do know the story title is a nod to the suburban habit of naming houses Emoh Ruo I first encountered in My Brother Jack, and perhaps was a call to George Johnston’s desire to escape that reality that ultimately he didn’t seem able to. Maybe it illustrates the characters’ motivation and ill fate. Or perhaps it had no deeper meaning than a bit of fun wordplay for a dark story that tries to end on (for me) an uncharacteristically lighter note.
Funny, too, how what was meant to be just a bit of scenery, in this case a chicken, came to have a metaphorical role in the story. That idea must’ve been on special in the supermarket that day.
Funnily enough, I’ve still got another iteration of this story in the back of my brain. One with a goose. And even half an idea for another story involving these two characters. Another trip to the supermarket may be required!
Dreaming in the Dark has 21 stories from writers including Sean Williams, Garth Nix, Angela Slatter, Terry Dowling … it’s a cornucopia of Aussie writing. Check it out here.
The Brisbane launch is at Dymocks, 17 Albert St, on Thursday 8 December from 6pm. There will be readings, live music, drinks, signings and bonhomie! It would be lovely to see a few Brissie pals there! Free to attend, but please RSVP!