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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Monsters – a thoughtful alien ‘invasion’

If you’re looking for a bug hunt, you should probably head over to the aisle with Alien vs Predators or Aliens or somesuch. Gareth Edwards’ Monsters is not about the critters from outer space, but our reaction to them.

The scenario is this: a NASA probe carrying alien life from somewhere in our solor system has burnt up in the atmosphere, but consequently, strange creatures have appeared in Central America, to such an extent that much of that region has been declared a quarantine/infected zone. The creatures have a seasonal migration during which things get particularly hairy for those caught in the zone. In this case, there’s a photographer, Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), and Samantha (Whitney Able), the daughter of his media mogul boss. Kaulder, who would rather be chasing fame and fortune with his camera as the creatures hit the road, is instead saddled with babysitting duty — daddy wants his daughter shipped out on the first available ferry to the USA, where her fiance is waiting.

Naturally, the travel plans are somewhat interrupted, and the two get to reveal certain truths about their personalities and lives.

There’s no real big picture to the alien encounter, and I don’t want to give away much about the nature of the critters, but this is a very localised story — the opening titles annoy with mention of ‘half the country’ without saying which country (we presume America, the movie is set in Mexico); there’s no mention of how the rest of the world is faring, or even why Sam has to leave by ferry rather than say, by air, or by going to a different country south of the zone. Maybe I was dense and missed the salient details. Certainly, at movie’s end, I wished I’d paid more attention to the opening scenes; now I really want to see those again, just to confirm some things.

The thing is, this IS a very personal movie. It’s about the two Yanks and the place they’re in, about how the politicians have responded to the arrival of the alien lifeforms — America, for instance, takes its Mexican border fence a massive step further and builds a modern Great Wall — and how this varies to the response of the people still living within the quarantine zone who are dealing with this change in their natural environment while the jets rain down bombs and chemicals and the tanks rumble through the streets.

Monsters is elegant and understated and beautifully acted, the dialogue so natural in fact I wouldn’t be surprised if some was simply ad libbed. The relationship between Kaulder and Sam unfolds at such an unforced pace, it’s a delight.

The director knows when to use handheld and when not to and the use of the aliens is wonderfully controlled to deliver moments of tension and of wonder. Not a bad effort for a low-budget flick! (IMDB says the estimated budget was a mere $200,000. Amazing.)

There are some clever Jurassic Park/War of the Worlds moments to add tension and action, but it’s the very believable portrayal of two ordinary people, and indeed a nation of ignored people, under stress that makes this movie one of the year’s best, and certainly a sterling addition — following on from District 9‘s alien-as-refugee scenario last year — to the canon of alien invasion movies.