Mythomorphosis: tales of paranormal Brisbane

years best australian fantasy and horrorBack in 2015, SQ Mag published my story “Night Blooming”. It featured Shane Hall, a homicide detective, and Manasa Chalmers, a corporate security operative from India, united by happenstance and searching for a lost teenager.

There were a couple of points of difference to the typical buddy cop story, firstly in that Brisbane, as with the rest of the world, is experiencing “mythomorphosis”, in which people are transforming into mythical creatures, and secondly, in that this strange and little-understood phenomenon was affecting our heroines quite personally.

I was chuffed and pleasantly surprised for “Night Blooming” to be selected for Ticonderoga Publications’ latest anthology of Australian fantasy and horror, their Year’s Best 2015 — see the table of contents below*, salivate, then order it, my friends!

and then ... anthology volume 1But wait, there’s more! Because hitting the digital shelves at the end of 2016, ahead of a paperback release this month, is And Then … Vol.1 from Clan Destine Press. This tome features 15 longer tales starring dynamic partnerships, a varied and exotic selection of Antipodean adventure stories (here be dragons, and so much more!).

Among the first offering (TOC below) is my “The Mermaid Club”, another outing for Shane and Manasa. I’ve written a little about the story over at Sophie Masson’s website, but proof’s in the pudding. Not to give too much away, the pair suspect their’s something fishy about a kidnapping at a rich man’s club … Ebook here, paperback to come, with Vol.2 close on its heels!

* you will notice a certain Kirstyn McDermott in the list! doubly chuffed!

Year’s Best Australian Fantasy and Horror 2015 TOC

Joanne Anderton — 2B

Alan Baxter — The Chart of the Vagrant Mariner

Deborah Biancotti — Look How Cold My Hands Are

Stephen Dedman — Oh, Have You Seen The Devil

Erol Engin — The Events at Callan Park

Jason Fischer — The Dog Pit

Dirk Flinthart — In the Blood

Kimberley Gaal — In Sheep’s Clothing

Stephanie Gunn — The Flowers That Bloom Where Blood Touches Earth

Lisa Hannett — Consorting With Filth

Robert Hood — Double Speak

Kathleen Jennings — A Hedge of Yellow Roses

Maree Kimberley — Ninehearts

Jay Kristoff — Sleepless

Martin Livings — El Caballo Muerte

Danny Lovecraft — Reminiscences of Herbert West

Kirstyn McDermott — Self, Contained

Sally McLennan — Mr Schmidt’s Dead Pet Emporium

DK Mok — Almost Days

Faith Mudge — Blueblood

Samantha Murray — Half Past

Jason Nahrung — Night Blooming

Garth Nix — The Company of Women

Anthony Panegyres — Lady Killer

Rivqa Rafael — Beyond the Factory Wall

Deborah Sheldon — Perfect Little Stitches

Angela Slatter Bluebeard’s Daughter

Cat Sparks — Dragon Girl

Lucy Sussex — Angelito

Anna Tambour — Tap

Kaaron Warren — Mine Intercom
 

And Then Vol.1 TOC

Introduction by Janeen Webb

Sulari Gentil — Catch a Fallen Star

Jason Nahrung — The Mermaid Club

Alan Baxter — Golden Fortune, Dragon Jade

Jason Franks — Exli and the Dragon

Lucy Sussex — Batgirl in Borneo

Amanda Wrangles — Come Now, Traveller

Evelyn Tsitas — Stealing Back the Relics

Peter M Ball — Deadbeats

Narrelle M Harris — Moran & Cato: Virgin Soil

Dan Rabarts — Tipuna Tapu

Kat Clay — In the Company of Rogues

Sophie Masson — The Romanov Opal

Tor Roxburgh — The Boudicca Society

Emilie Collyer — The Panther’s Paw

Tansy Rayner Roberts — Death at the Dragon Circus
 

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Snapshot 2012: Jenny Blackford

australian speculative fiction snapshot 2012 logoJENNY Blackford gave up her day job in 2001, and has been writing ever since, in between spoiling the cat, cooking and gardening. With husband Russell, she lived 30 years in Melbourne before returning to her hometown of Newcastle in 2009. In the same year, she was a judge for the World Fantasy Awards. She has had 20 stories published: eight for adults and 12 for children, and four poems, plus the historical novella The Priestess and the Slave.

Her latest publication is ‘The Dragon in the Tent’, a magical circus story, in The School Magazine, which has also recently accepted a cat poem, ‘Soft silk sack’.

Her latest publication specifically for grown-ups was ‘The Sacrifice’, in Aurealis 47. Jenny’s website is www.jennyblackford.com and she blogs at Living in the Past.


You’ve had some poetry published recently, after a long hiatus, and one ventures the new stuff is quite different to your first piece in Dolly all those years ago: what do you think has inspired you to not only return to poetry, but poetry of a decidedly darker (?) nature?
As to what has inspired me to return to poetry -– the real question is why I ever stopped writing it. Apparently, I just gave up quietly in my final dispiriting years of high school. The poetry writing asserted itself naturally a few years ago and took a while to nose its way out into the world.

And as to the alleged new darkness: not all my recent poems are dark. My poem forthcoming from The School Magazine is a fairly sweet little thing about a cat (though some might think ‘soft silk sack of bones’ has a slightly sinister edge). And my most recent poetry publication (in Star*Line 35.1 is another sweetish cat poem (though it does start with the potentially sinister ‘Gravity is stern as death’, and does ascribe uncanny powers to cats.) Hmmm…

I wish I could find my copy of ‘Ti-trees Rising’, the poem that was printed in Dolly back in the ’70s, but it seems to have disappeared from my filing system. It’s about ti-tree scrub, but I do distinctly remember the words ‘reptilian silver’ and ‘the cold moon in the dark’, so there’s at least a smidge of a sinister edge there as well.

Getting deeper: it’s true that the definitely dark ‘Mirror’ was my first poem for decades, but it’s based on memories from my teens. I was totally convinced that I saw someone else’s eyes looking back at me in the mirror, and I was terrified. Back then, I’m sure family and friends would have been horrified if I’d put all that fear and darkness into a poem. Now that I’m grown up, I’m allowed to.


What is your approach to reinvigorating the age-old story of Medea? Is that what made you pick it?
Modern people don’t tend to take Medea seriously as a Bronze Age priestess of Hekate, as a powerful sorceress, or as a goddess, grand-daughter of Helios, the Sun, but the ancient Greeks certainly did. She’s an amazing character, and the Bronze Age –- the era of the Mycenaean Greeks -– is my absolute favourite. Just imagine a glowing, golden-haired goddess-princess sitting on a throne carved out of rock crystal with golden monkeys inlaid on the back.

I’d loved the story ever since I studied the 5th century BC Euripides play Medea (in Ancient Greek) as part of my degree in Classics. After all the modern retellings that concentrate on how ‘heroic’ Jason was, and what a monster Medea was to kill her brother and her children, I was astonished to see Euripides rip into him so cuttingly, and so appallingly accurately. Jason could never have brought the Golden Fleece back to Greece without Medea’s help -– but a few years later, he wanted to trade her in for a younger, better-connected princess (not foreign witch), and expected Medea to be happy about him providing a better future for their children! Euripides converted me to Medea’s side, and I want to convert everyone else.


When you wrote The Priestess and the Slave, was your inner fantasist crying out to add fantasy elements or was 5BC fantastical enough?
When Eric Reynolds (the editor/publisher of Hadley Rille Books) asked me to write him a strictly historically accurate novella set in ancient Greece, my first two questions were whether I could use Bronze Age Greece (no – it had to be Classical Greece, 5th century BC), and whether I could add fantasy elements (no — it had to be purely historical).

I shrugged and got on with it. Once I started to write, it didn’t matter. Living inside the head of a slave girl in the plague years of Athens, or a Pythia in Delphi, was a strange and intense experience in its own right. And the characters believed totally in their gods, who are almost characters in their own right.


What Australian works have you loved recently?
So much -– but a few that come to mind are Tansy Rayner RobertsCreature Court trilogy, Alison Goodman‘s Eon/Eona duology, Kim Wilkins‘ novella (‘Crown of Rowan: A Tale of Thrysland’) in Jack Dann and Jonathan Strahan’s Legends anthology.

What have been some of the biggest changes in Australian speculative fiction in the past two years since Aussiecon 4?
Aussiecon 4 seems hardly any time ago! Wasn’t it only yesterday? One very sad change, though, is the deaths of Sara Douglass and Paul Haines, both from cancer. Valete.

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THIS interview was conducted as part of the 2012 Snapshot of Australian Speculative Fiction. We’re blogging interviews from 1-8 June and archiving them at Australian Speculative Fiction in Focus. You can read interviews at: