Wollemi Dreaming – a new story

Wollemi pines. Picture: NPWS via AAP

Yes, for the first time since finishing the PhD, I’ve written — and sold — a short story. Whew.

‘Wollemi Dreaming’ was written in response to a call-out for an anthology called Oz Is Burning, by US publisher B-Cubed Press, with a brief of a fire-related apocalypse/post-apocalypse setting.

The theme of this anthology struck a spark, and it landed in tinder: images of the Black Summer bushfires still burning at the time this story was written and the incredible efforts of specialist firefighters in protecting the unique Wollemi pine stand in New South Wales; climate change; and crimes against our First Nations peoples. It’s not so hard to imagine the hubris of the wealthy privileged preying on the desperate to destroy part of our natural world that others risked their lives to save. But this story lets nature defend itself.

Here’s the full table of contents, which includes a couple of pals — huzzah!

And Gaia Screams by Ann Poore
Across the Ditch by Clare Rhoden
Burn, Burn! by Almas Alexander
Red Sky at Morning by Sue Bursztynski
Fires of the Heart by E.E. King
Pay Back by Alex Isle
By the Grace of God by Harold Gross
Should Fire Remember the Fuel by Kyla Lee Ward
Welcoming the End by Aura Redwood
Beef by Zena Shapter
The Last Wish by Lauren E. Mitchell
Wollemi Dreaming by Jason Nahrung
Firestorm Sounds by Suzanne Newnham
Red Sky, Blue Dream by Jack Dann
Infestation by Paula Boer
Writing on the Wall by Gillian Polack
Dire Insurance by Jared Kavanaugh
Divorce by Donna J.W. Munro
Inconvenient Visitor by Lucy Sussex
Burning Hearts by Eleanor Whitworth
Harvest by Narrelle M. Harris
A Town Called Hope by Silvia Brown

Cover to come, and the anthology to be available this year, with a portion of the profit to go to a bushfire charity: [update: WIRES]. Bravo, B-Cubed. I look forward to seeing the finished article!

From the page to a coffee table – They Are Us is open

Neale Thompson, who made the exquisite coffee table in the background drawing on my piece 'Ghosts of Us'

Neale Thompson, who made the coffee table in the background drawing on my piece ‘Ghosts of Us’. Picture: Kirstyn McDermott

The They Are Us collaborative ekphrastic art exhibition filled the room for its official opening on February 27, and it was quite the night.

It was very rewarding indeed to see, after a year of development, how the artists from Soldiers Hill Artist Collective had used the short stories and poems of our team of writers working under the Words Out Loud banner as inspiration for such as wide range of art on the theme of They Are Us.

And I was especially chuffed to see the exquisite coffee table (with terrarium, a so delicate world balanced on the surface) made by Neale Thompson in response to my melancholy (shock!) ‘Ghosts of Us’. It even has wildlife carved into its pattern as a special treat.

Part of the audience at the launch of They Are Us

The combined works comfortably fill the generous space at the Lounge Gallery, Billy’s Bar, at the Mercure at 613 Main Rd, Ballarat, and the launch crowd comfortably filled the room! Lovely to see some red dots on the walls by the end of the evening, too!

City of Ballarat’s deputy mayor, Cr Belinda Coates, again showed her appreciation of not just the exhibition and the project’s collaborative nature, but the role of art itself at a defining time in history.

Reuben Morgan (of the BallaRat Pack), who composed a gorgeous piece for the previous WOL-SHAC collaboration Weathering the Future in 2018, has again written a bespoke theme piece. He was unfortunately unable to perform it on the night, but a recording of the work (about seven minutes in three movements) played during the launch shows a piece well worth a closer listen when it becomes available as he reflects on the refugee experience.

We’re particularly grateful to Radmac Office Choice in Ballarat for the generous donation of foam core board on which to display the written works and to Robert Young Signs for their contribution.

The exhibition runs from February 24 to April 5.

Stranded Assets finds a home

Colloquy journal 35/36 December 2018I guess the headline is a little contradictory, but anyway, I’m pleased as punch that ‘Stranded Assets’ has found a berth in Colloquy journal — a nice dip of the hat to 2018.

The short story was written as part of my PhD in creative writing, but is somewhat smaller than the version included in the thesis* due to word count constraints. It is a look into the future after the coal miners intent on tearing up Central Queensland, planet be damned, have come unstuck, and how the mess they make might be salvaged.

Editors Zachary Kendal and Aisling Smith describe it thus:

Nahrung’s futuristic ‘Stranded Assets’ strongly evokes its Queensland setting and subtly engages with issues confronting contemporary Australia. The story also engages with broader issues, such as the role of technology and the pressures of parenthood.

There are some amazing papers in the journal … Lovecraft, Angela Carter, Blake’s 7, and some Gothic horror! Just the stuff for some yuletide reading!

*The thesis was submitted in October, so I’m awaiting examiners’ reports in the new year.

Ecopunk! The end of the world as we know it

Ecopunk anthologyTiconderoga Publications brought this rather splendid volume out this year — 19 tales of how we might adapt to climate change. It’s an important topic, and given I’ve spent the best of three years studying it for my (ongoing) PhD, one that’s close to my heart. So I’m doubly chuffed to have a story in this, one written as part of my PhD project. I talk about it over at the Ticonderoga site — please do check out the book should you visit (it’s colourful, would look grand under the Xmas tree, eh!). There are some damn good writers there, collected by editors Liz Grzyb and Cat Sparks.

Keeping up, when the future is now

wind-powered greenhouse in victoria

Image: reneweconomy.com.au

One of the hardest parts about writing a near-future novel is keeping ahead of the news, but that’s not always a bad thing. For instance, here’s a news article about an awesome project in Victoria: a massive glasshouse for growing vegetables that will be totally powered by an adjacent wind farm. Extra rehab points for being built on the site of an old gold mine!

Meanwhile, the federal government and the Queensland government appear intent on dropping their dacks for Adani’s Carmichael coal minean unconscionable project by any metric you want to apply.

And here I am, with a mosaic novel* set in near-future Queensland (mainly Brisbane) in which the Galilee coal mines feature prominently — as stranded assets, now being converted into, you guessed it, giant greenhouses. (One of the three stories involving Galilee has been selected for the Ecopunk! anthology, coming from Ticonderoga Publications — the TOC looks amazing!)

It’d be really neat to have to rewrite the stories because the governments in question grew some social conscience (and economic nous) and canned the entire idea (I can hear the Asia-Pacific nations who are begging the world to stop building coal-fired power stations from here), but I can’t see that happening.

It’s a bit like the narrative spike I copped when BP (boo! not forgiven for Deepwater Horizon) pulled out of exploration in the Great Australian Bight, only to be replaced by Chevron. And so the battle, and the story, goes on …

* mosaic novel = a fictional work made up of interconnected short stories; the form has many names (composite novel and novel-in-stories are just two of the more common ones, but I prefer mosaic)
 

Carmichael mine a ‘white elephant’

Photo: nealehaynes.com

Two telling quotes from a fascinating interview with lawyer James Thornton, the driving force behind environmental law firm ClientEarth:

Climate change is so real that people in charge of other people’s money need to understand that it is now a financial risk

And, about Adani’s proposal for a huge coal mine in the Galilee Basin in Queensland (with their hands out for massive government assistance):

If it is ever built, it will be the biggest subsidised white elephant in the world

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    In Your Face – speculative fiction with bite!

    in your face anthologyIn Your Face, an anthology of confronting speculative fiction from FableCroft Publishing, will soon be in the wild (next month!)! This volume contains 22 stories from some of Australia’s biggest hitters in the genre (Sean Williams, Kaaron Warren, Angela Slatter and more!), as well as some lesser known writers such as myself, and they’re packing a punch.

    Says a review in Aurealis, “some of these stories are confronting, even shocking in the subjects they tackle head-on … In Your Face is a truly rewarding and affecting experience”.

    My yarn, A House in the Blue, is a reaction to the shitful health policies championed by the thankfully dead Abbott government (we note the Turnbull government’s similarity to its predecessor) and is no doubt all too familiar to readers in the United States. It is set in the climate-change affected future Brisbane introduced in 2014’s Watermarks. The sad thing about my story is that I think I’ve underplayed the situation, but I guess only time will tell.

    There is a Goodreads contest running until June 30 offering a free copy, or you can read more here (or preorder at the online bookstore of your choice, pretty much). The countdown continues!