From the Wasteland: what’s it all about?

A new anthology of speculative fiction called From the Wasteland will gather original stories inspired by TS Eliot’s The Waste Land  

I first had the idea for this collection last December while walking the Empress (otherwise known as Aeryn Spoodle).  I was listening to an episode of ABC Classics’ The Game Show (music from video games). This episode had a very dark theme. Naturally my mind turned to my studies into First World War literature, and then to The Waste Land.

The Waste Land begins with a chapter titled The Burial of the Dead. The very first line says that ‘April is the cruellest month’. What an attention-grabbing start!

The 434-line poem is Eliot’s extended lament for the lost lives and the destruction of the 1914-1918 war. He’s talking about the collapse of civilised behaviour, the wanton wreckage, the widespread despair. And he does it in style.

Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery
Australian headstones at Tyne Cot cemetery on the Western Front (my photo from my 2011 study tour)

When I got home from my walk, I looked up the poem, recalling that it includes dozens of splendid lines. Then I discovered (re-discovered?) that the poem’s first publication was in 1922.

Lo and behold, 2022 would be the centenary!

The idea of an anthology of Wasteland stories burst into my head. Wow! so many good lines there that are almost irresistible as story titles – for something in literary speculative fiction genres. (Literary spec fic? Think Margaret Attwood and Octavia Butler.) Look at these phrases for a start, all from The Waste Land:

  • a heap of broken images
  • they called me the hyacinth girl
  • looking into the heart of light
  • the barbarous king
  • are you alive, or not?

I’ve invited a select band of other active speculative fiction authors to write short stories springing from Eliot’s poem. I’m thrilled to say that we are a merry band of 19 writers. You can see more about them here.

snow covered trees
My story is based on line 5 of TS Eliot’s The Waste Land’: Winter kept us warm, covering earth in forgetful snow’, from the first section of the poem, ‘The Burial of the Dead’.

‘From the Waste Land: speculative fiction inspired by Eliot’ will include ghost stories, fantasy, horror, steampunk, dystopia and queer romance. All will be intriguing and amazing tales.

I’m doing my best to ensure that this anthology will come out in the second half of 2022 to coincide with the poem’s centenary. I’m very busy querying publishers–no easy feat when we don’t actually have a completed manuscript on hand yet! And of course, I’m writing up a storm with my collaborators…

It’s going to be fabulous. Keep an eye peeled for more news about this wonderful project.