reads, Recent Reads

The Only Good Indians

From the Blurb:

“Ten years ago, four young men shot some elk then went on with their lives. It happens every year; it’s been happening forever; it’s the way it’s always been. But this time it’s different. Ten years after that fateful hunt, these men are being stalked themselves. Soaked with a powerful gothic atmosphere, the endless expanses of the landscape press down on these men – and their children – as the ferocious spirit comes for them one at a time.

The Only Good Indians, charts Nature’s revenge on a lost generation that maybe never had a chance. Cleaved to their heritage, these parents, husbands, sons and Indians, men live on the fringes of a society that has rejected them, refusing to challenge their exile to limbo.”

Review:

I recently read The Only Good Indians by US author Stephen Graham Jones. It was my first experience of Graham Jones’ gothic fiction and I was drawn to the Native American folklore of Elk-head woman and concept of emotional and physical haunting. What I discovered was a much deeper, complex and more rewarding read than I expected.

The Only Good Indians follows two main characters from a group of four Blackfeet men who in their youth, broke the laws of their reservation trespassing on the hunting grounds reserved for the elders during the last day of hunting. In a deep snow storm, the young men shoot an entire herd of elk including a young pregnant doe who takes several shots to kill. After taking only the hindquarters of the elk which is all the single pickup Ute can carry, the young men are caught by the reservation police and forced to relinquish the meat, unlawfully killed and they are banned from hunting on the reservation ever again. Despite decades passing since that fateful hunt, the four men are each haunted, emotionally and physically by the spectre of an elk-headed woman.

After two of the four die in violent circumstances after trying to leave the reservation, only one man, Lewis, has survived living outside the reservation but he has never left behind the guilt or sorrow from that hunt. Lewis was responsible for killing the young elk and the news of the recent deaths of his other two friends reawakens his guilt. Lewis is certain that the elk he killed in his youth is seeking vengeance and despite attempts to console his conscience and the spirit of the young elk, Lewis’ life spirals into sudden and tragic violence and he joins the fatal tally from that fateful hunting trip. Although Lewis had seemingly escaped the reservation and the bindings of tradition, Gabe has remained living on the reservation. The last of the four, he becomes the final target for Elk-head woman and her vengeance. Gabe has stayed on the reservation but does not have true acceptance either, enduring a borderline tolerance by the Blackfeet community. The last of the four who killed the elk on elder’s hunting ground, Gabe is aware Elk-head woman is hunting him and to protect his own daughter from becoming collateral, he demands Elk-head woman promise not to seek vengeance by killing his daughter despite his responsibility for the elk calf’s untimely death. It is clear that none of the four men ever escaped their identity as Native Americans, never escaped the wrong they committed that night and can never escape the need to find a balance for it.

Final Thoughts:

I had read a few references to folklore of the figure of Elk-head woman and customs surrounding not killing pregnant animals in several Native American cultures not just Stephen Graham Jones’ own Blackfeet heritage. But Graham Jones combined these with a gritty modern reality, an awareness that past wrongs can never be forgotten or out-run, that grief and sorrow are as capable at haunting an individual as any spectral figure. The most enduring aspect of The Only Good Indians was the skilfully constructed atmosphere in every scene, the detailed characters and the effective use of sudden, sharp violence completely shattering scenes and unnerving characters and audience alike.

Conclusion?

The Only Good Indians is an absolute modern classic of gothic folklore and literary fiction. I cannot recommend more highly. A must read!

Short Stories, Writing

Dystopian Apocalyptic Fiction

Recently, I’ve finished writing a short story that was originally a novelette written for the Higher School Certificate Extension II English course when I was seventeen. Topical for 2020, the story is set in the near future, after the collapse of global nations, a Third World War and climate disasters. Speculative fiction at its core, a volatile figure, the veteran warrior and vampire suffering from post-traumatic stress holds the answers to reuniting two siblings who never thought to see each other again. I was interested in exploring parallels throughout history, the repetition of similar events, where in the story, the decimation of organised nations by governmental decay has a parallel in the fall of Ancient Rome and the beginning of the dark ages. Similarly, the effects of conscription on battlefield tactics and society has a parallel in the modern history throughout World War I and the Vietnam Wars. The addition of climate induced crisis and detrimental environmental impact is yet unprecedented on a global scale but seems possible for our future.

reads, Recent Reads

Metamorphosis: Short Stories

I recently read Metamorphosis: A Collection of Short Stories by Australian author Claire Fitzpatrick.
I do not commonly read Horror fiction, so I am probably a bit unfamiliar with the development of themes in “body horror” fiction. However, I was really intrigued by the different stories in this collection, appreciating the originality and scope. I was particularly interested in the way, Metamorphosis stepped-away from the more common gothic and classic “shock” tropes of zombies, aliens, necromancy, shape-shifters, mutations and the ‘grotesques’ in depraved scientific experiments. What Metamorphosis contained were stories which reflected elements of those classic biological horror themes, but delved deeper into the psychological unease experienced by all facets of society, intent on exploring some disturbing aspects of our “modern” sociocultural paradigm.
Metamorphosis is surely why Claire Fitzpatrick is referred to as the “Australian Body Horror Specialist”. The combination of classic biological horror fiction with the elegant psychological unease indebted to Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein is a style of Horror fiction that seeks to find the monstrous in society but also to examine the unspoken fears and potential horrors in our “modern” society. If you dare, it’s a highly recommended read!

Recent Reads, Writing

Zodiac Themed Anthology Series

I’m currently reading the second volume in a 12 part series, a Zodiac themed anthology produced by Aussie Speculative Fiction. Each month, a new anthology featuring that month’s zodiac sign will be released. This January-February, I’m reading Aquarius and because it’s also my own star sign. The Aquarius anthology features many unique interpretations of the water-carrier star sign by Australian and New Zealand speculative fiction writers. You can read more about the Aquarius volume here.

I have also contributed a short story to the Taurus Anthology which will be released in a few months. I also wrote a brief post on my inspiration and research behind the short story.

If you’re interested in reading the Aussie Speculative Fiction Zodiac Anthologies, you can find copies the Aquarius and Capricorn Anthologies through Books2Read with direct links to your preferred bookstore.

Short Stories, stories

Haunting, Horror & Shadows

I have always been inspired and drawn to the very dark Gothic-style horror of the Victorian era, where classic works like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Turn of the Screw combine with the dark tales by Edgar Allan Poe and H.P Lovecraft influencing generations of horror writers. To those classic works, I often include the eerie descriptions of landscape and physical surroundings from Victorian era poets like Samuel Taylor Coleridge, William Blake and William Butler Yeats which evoke supernatural atmospheres based on physical surrounding as much as characters.
From similar thematic foundations, I wanted to write a modern horror story about hauntings, where the surroundings were as much a haunting as the ghost itself. I was interested in a manifested haunting, a demonic shadowy being, feeding on the vulnerable, where an increase in societal despair, drug addiction, homelessness and suicides are the traces of the demon’s presence. I was interested in using a contemporary Australian setting, choosing the wintry city streets of Melbourne and a ghost caught in “limbo” between the veil of life and death.

events, Writing

Continuum 15, 2019

I attended Continuum15/NatCon 58 convention in Melbourne from June 7-10, 2019. The convention is an annual event for the Australian speculative fiction community. This was my first Continuum convention and I was looking forward to the many expert panels, workshops, Markets, the Maskbalao, Ditmar Awards, Shadows Awards & Norma K Hemming Awards. 

Ticket pricing was very generous with special rates for First Time attendees and Friday evening. More information available  here


I spoke on two panels:


Magical Medicine: The Physiology of Fantasy  – Friday 7pm

What options does a twenty-foot dragon have for actually getting airborne? What ailments could trouble a angel? How would you handle a chimera with a cold, and just how *does* a centaur’s digestive system work? 

Speakers: 
ZFreya MarskeAlannah K. PearsonPrema

June 7, 2019, 7:00 pm to 8:00 pm
Hall: Pluto


Illness in SFF  – Saturday 10 am

Future sci fi seems to always have “Medical technology has wiped out disease” or “A plague is wiping out humanity”, why do we not hear about common ailments and the oddities of medical care in space and across multiple species?

Speakers: 
ZAlannah K. PearsonAndi BuchananMargaret Morgan

June 8, 2019, 10:00 am to 11:00 am
Hall: Pluto


There are also some wonderful workshops & talks by the guests of honour. Come join me in the audience!


Workshop: Writing Fight Scenes For Women – Sunday 10 am

Speaker: 
Aiki Flinthart

June 9, 2019, 10:00 am to 12:00 pm
Hall: Barrayar Track: Workshops


Kate Elliott: Reading and Signing – Sunday 2 pm

Join Kate Elliott for a reading, followed by Q&A and book signing.

Speaker: 
Kate Elliott

June 9, 2019, 2:00 pm to 3:00 pm
Hall: Magrathea Track: Guest of Honour


Ken Liu: Reading and Signing – Sunday 3 pm

Join Ken Liu for a reading, followed by Q&A and book signing.

Speaker: 
Ken Liu

June 9, 2019, 3:00 pm to 4:00 pm
Hall: Magrathea Track: Guest of Honour