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Posts tagged ‘Climate fiction’

Crisis Interruptis

I interrupt the regular run of Last Word of the Week with an explanatory story about Australian dystopian fiction and bushfires.

Apologies to anyone looking for my Middle Child post – that’s been rescheduled to next week. The national bushfire emergency is too high a priority.

I wish I’d never written that book

As the climate emergency continues, I’m forced to reflect on my writing. One social media post I saw described a bookshop as moving its post-apocalyptic fiction books to the current affairs section.

I feel the same.

The Chronicles of the Pale started with a dream – or nightmare – in which desperate refugees were shut out of a fenced compound, and those of us inside were prevented from bringing them in to safety. This dream arose from Australia’s harsh treatment of refugees, a policy condemned by the UN. Scott Morrison as the Minister for Immigration at the time introduced Operation Sovereign Borders, and his lack of empathy, his inhumanity, his stubborn conviction that he and only he was right, inspired the cruel characters who rule inside my fictional policosmos, the Pale. Jason the Senior Forecaster and Élin the Regent care only for themselves.

If Australia had been a more compassionate country, I would never have written The Pale. I truly wish that was the case – better a world with care for refugees than a world with one more dystopian novel in it. I wish I had never had to write that book.

ruins pale

And I wish I’d never written the next one

In Book 2, Broad Plain Darkening, it’s the discriminatory practices of the Settlement that come under the most scrutiny. It is no surprise to me, now, to reflect that this novel was written during the bitter gay marriage referendum debate that occupied Australians at the time. I was also extremely distressed by the live export controversy, and got nowhere with my communication to the then Minister for Agriculture Barnaby Joyce. Profit above all, no matter who or what suffers.

I can see my rejection of this every time one of my favourite characters acts in a compassionate way, every time they work against discrimination and cruelty. It’s sad to think that my fictional folk – humans and animals – have more heart than many of my fellow Australians. Brettin, the outrageously upright Lady of the Temple, represents all that distresses me about religion and prejudice. And that’s saying something.

Now that the current Federal Government is pushing through its religious ‘tolerance’ bill, allowing many acts of bigotry to flourish unchecked in the spurious name of religious freedom (ie freedom to discriminate against the LGBTI+ community), I’m sad that Book 2 also had to be written. A better world would never have the need for such a story.

BPD horses

If only I hadn’t written the third book!

And so we get to the climate.

The Chronicles of the Pale 3, The Ruined Land, is about my fictional world falling apart under the feet of all the communities that depend on it. Here’s what happens:

Volcanoes destroy the Shaking Land – and yes I did write that before White Island erupted just off the New Zealand coast.

Unchecked fires rage through the Broken Ranges and send smoke across the entire continent, with displaced and starving ursini (bear creatures) invading Broad Plain because their habitat is gone – yes I did write that before Australia burst into unprecedented flame.

Water floods the land as the temperature rises and the ice caps melt back into the sea … and I wrote that before Australia patted the Pacific islands on the head and told them not to panic. Does any of this sound familiar?

In my story, there is even a child – Jasper Valkirrasson – who does his best, at great personal cost, to warn the crusty old misanthropes at the old Settlement about the coming danger. I wrote Jasper’s courage and his big heart before I had even heard of Greta Thunberg, but if I hadn’t , she would certainly have been my model.

The Ruined Land was written at a time when – again and again – Australia turned its back on environmental reform in the name of money, and held the position that Australia had no desire or mandate to be a world leader in this field. True, our overall effect may be comparatively small, but we are also one of the countries most vulnerable to climate change. We should care more. Many of us do, and we take the small steps we can, because we can’t keep on pretending that how we live has no effect on the planet.

TRL fire

I hope to never write dystopia again

I would like to live in an Australia that was compassionate, ethical, and environmentally responsible. I would like us to spend our money on resettlement of refugees, on bushfire mitigation strategies and equipment, on sensible use of water, on transitioning away from live export, on responsible waste treatment, on public transport, on the preservation of wildlife habitat, and so much more. People will shout about the cost, but our current policies are just as costly in dollars, and much more costly in long-term damage to the Earth and its inhabitants, of all species.

I have to say that unfortunately I’m planning to have The Chronicles of the Pale #4 ready for late 2021.

This post is, and isn’t, about writing. Writing, for me, can’t be divorced from who I am and what I believe. All the same, the books can simply be read as a story. I’m just so sad that so much of it has come true.

Next week, current affairs permitting, I’ll be back to plain old talk about books!

 

The Tree of the Sentries by Clare Rhoden

‘The Sentries have been at it again.’

Thera, the Duty Provost, clicked her tongue. She wasn’t sure what annoyed her more: the unhelpful vagueness which characterised Canon Field’s conversational ambits, or the ridiculous – and dangerous – preoccupation of the Sentries with challenging every covenant of the pact. One of these days, their foolhardy actions would bring on another Great Event. The self-named ‘Sentries of the Human Race’ refused to accept any of the hard-fought agreements that had brought Planet Earth at least a few steps back from the void. ‘If it’s not good for humans, it’s not good for Earth!’ was the mantra of their stupidity.

‘What have they done now, Canon?’ she asked. ‘Interrupted another sports carnival? Scandalised another fashion show? Insulted another religion? Dumped green waste on the steps of the Senate House?’

Canon Field, his bright eyes sparkling with delight, hopped up and down on the one spot. ‘You’ll never believe it, Provost! It’s too delicious. They’ve cut down a tree! There’s no saving them now. So much for allowing them freedom of thought!’

Thera blinked. Then she adjusted her uniform, quite unnecessarily. ‘You’re right, Canon. I don’t believe it.’ Even the Sentries could not be quite so flagrant in their destructive protests. Since they had been disarmed, their penchant for killing had been checked. She was sure. Wasn’t she?

Field nodded. ‘Just as I thought! You know, you’ll turn into a Sentry yourself one of these days. Such a doubter. You never believe anything! But it’s right here on the Rounds. Come, see for yourself.’ He gestured towards the bank of screens that filled the eastern wall of the high chamber. When Thera did not immediately move, he took hold of her sleeve and tugged. ‘Here, see? Their very own tree.’

Unable to look away, the Duty Provost fixed her eyes on the looping images that comprised the day’s Rounds. Sure enough, wedged between the day’s Energy Price Statement and the Relative National Product forecast was a bizarre image. Dozens of Sentries, their distinctive bulky clothes transforming them into so many foreshortened trolls, cavorted around a fallen eucalypt. Thera gasped at the thought that flashed in her mind, but there was no denying that they did look like cannibals dancing on a skeleton. They were only Sentries, but Canon Field was right. This time their nonsense had to be checked.

She watched the Rounds through three more times before calling for the Watchmen.

 

 

Last Word: Lachlan Walter

Lachlan Walter, writer, science-fiction critic and nursery-hand (the garden kind, not the baby kind) is today’s guest on Last Word of the Week. Lachlan’s Australian post-apocalyptic novel is called The Rain Never Came and his next book will be the Kaiju story-cycle We Call It Monster. Lachlan also writes science fiction criticism for Aurealis magazine and reviews for the independent ‘weird music’ website Cyclic Defrost. Lachlan’s short fiction can be found floating around online, and he has completed a PhD that explored the relationship between Australian post-apocalyptic fiction and Australian notions of national identity.

LWOTW: Welcome, Lachlan! Tell us about when you first realised that you are a writer.

Lachlan: To me, the distinction between wanting to be a writer and actually being a writer is psychological more than anything else. Being a writer means accepting the fact that you don’t have to write a blockbuster (and probably won’t) or churn out a book a year, but instead have to put in the work and make the sacrifices needed. Lots of people who want to be writers seem to see it as some kind of glamorous calling that doesn’t actually involve any real work, whereas the truth is that it’s often a slog involving persistence and tenacity, in which a thick skin is utterly invaluable. To touch on an old chestnut: writing is about perspiration, not inspiration.

In my case, I realised that I was actually a writer when found myself unable to step away from my work-in-progress of the time. I was putting in ten and twelve-hour days, turning a simple idea into a novel (and neglecting my oh-so-forgiving family and friends), and waking up each morning dead-keen to do it all over again. There were good days and bad days, but the important thing was that they were all writing days, and ever-so-slowly my first book was coming together. By the time I’d completed the first draft, this had become a routine – wake up, have breakfast, clean up, start writing – and was the equivalent of punching a clock or reporting for duty. And thus, I considered myself a writer.

Of course, it helps to have your work affirmed through publication, positive feedback, in-depth reviews and sales, but they aren’t strictly necessary. What matters is your work ethic, getting on with the job and creating a body of work that you can be proud of.

Lachlan Walter - HEADSHOT

That’s an interesting analysis, thank you. For your writing, do you rely more on dreams, imagination, and planning?

I don’t think I’ve ever had a dream that resulted in a good piece of writing, so let’s scratch that off the list, which leaves imagination and planning. Both are important, but planning is a skill that can be refined whereas imagination is intuitive, inspiring and seems to strike like the metaphorical lightning bolt. An example: I had the idea for my first book long before I put pen to paper (or finger to keyboard, which is more accurate though less poetic), but when I started writing it – and consequently started planning it – I really had no idea what I was doing. It wasn’t until a fellow writer gently pointed out that my plan was a bit long – three books long, by their estimate – that I realised how much I had to learn about this underappreciated skill.

In other words, I rely more on my imagination than anything else, but it’s the planning that really matters.

That sounds like a good balance of imagination and organsation. So what’s the highlight of your writing career so far?

This would have to be a tie between having my first book accepted for publication, and having my second book accepted.

Having your first book accepted is an incredible feeling, as all authors would know – it’s a validation of your hard work, and confirmation that the idea behind it and the writing within it is solid and of a high quality. Everyone’s first book is a labour of love, something that’s been happily sweated over, something that contains a little bit of your heart and soul, and mine was no different. As mentioned, I had the idea for it long before I put pen to paper, and nurtured this idea like an obsessed gardener growing the fussiest plants from seed.

But once your first book has been published you realise that if you want to be a writer, you have to do it all over again from the beginning. This can be a struggle because you carry within you an expectation that your second book has to happen sooner rather than later, and you have to conceive it and work at it quickly and diligently, whereas the ideas and writing of your first book just seemed to come naturally and at its own pace. However, once it’s completed to your satisfaction, having it accepted for publication somehow proves that you’ve got what it takes to keep on writing.

That letter (or email) acceptance is such a joy, isn’t it? What are you most looking forward to at the moment?

Finishing my third book, so that I can then get onto the next and the next after that and so on. I’m like most writers – I have more ideas than I do time to write them, and I just can’t wait to get them down and bring them to life.

Oh, yes, that’s the problem. Not where we get our ideas from but how to herd them! If you could say one thing to aspiring writers, what would it be?

Write, write and write some more – you can always be better, and the only way to achieve this is through dedication and work. And remember that not every piece of writing has to be a book: short stories, articles, reviews, blogs, criticism, they all help hone your talent.

 And finally: Who would you be if you were a fictional character?

The Doctor, without a doubt. He/she possesses everything that one would want in life, and that makes a good person: kindness, intelligence, inquisitiveness, childlike wonder, loyalty, a circle of loving friends who are loved in return, and a dedication to pacifism that only falters when absolutely necessary.

I thought you had a bit of a Tom Baker look about you! Thanks for speaking with me, Lachlan, and more power to your writing.

Lachlan’s important links:

www.lachlanwalter.com

https://www.facebook.com/LachWalter79/

https://twitter.com/LachWalter79

BUY LINKS:

https://www.amazon.com/Rain-Never-Came-Lachlan-Walter/dp/192220093X

https://www.amazon.com.au/Rain-Never-Came-Lachlan-Walter-ebook/dp/B07CH261TC/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1547115345&sr=1-1&keywords=the+rain+never+came

www.odysseybooks.com.au/titles/9781922200938/