The editorial committee putting together the AFTS anthology “South of the Sun” have finally chosen their winners. It was a truly difficult job – we were inundated with talented submissions and we’ve spent many a long hour short-listing, re-short-listing, arguing and finally agreeing on the following. A big thank you to everyone who sent in their entries.
Congratulations to everyone who’s on the list – and commiserations to those who didn’t make it.
·Anezka Sero ̶The Snowgum Maiden
·Lindy Mitchell-Nilsson ̶Jack, the Beanstalk and the NBN
·Yvette Ladzinski ̶The Lonely Mosque
·Melissa Min Harvey ̶The Wild Moon Call
·Clare Testoni ̶The Lyrebird
·Krystal Barton ̶North Coburg to Flinders St Station
I just discovered the 150th Anniversary edition of Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carol published by Princeton University Press is an illustrated version by artist Salvador Dali. Absolutely stunning illustrations that are pure magic!
You can buy hardback and paperback copies of this gorgeous edition through most bookstores and online stores at affordable prices.
The tawny frogmouth is a species of nocturnal bird native to much of Australia. It is well known in Australian landscapes for the staring red-gold eyes, the camouflage resembling a branch or broken tree stump and it’s seemingly unworried response to human presence.
I was walking in the early morning at a pine forest near where I live and was fortunate enough to spot a tawny frogmouth camouflaged against a pine tree trunk.
Although the tawny frogmouth is often considered like an owl, it is more related to a nightjar but many Australian nocturnal birds share similar symbolic roles in indigenous fables and folklore.
Among the indigenous cultures of the Noongar from Western Australia, the nocturnal birds like the tawny frogmouth and owls were associated with the shamanic powers of the ‘clever men’ and the opposing dangerous forces of night:
“ Traditionally associated with the dark totem, the owl was believed to be a totemic familiar of the ‘boylya-man’ or sorcerer (”clever man”) and the darkness of night was perceived as a dangerous time when ghosts and supernatural spirits were ever-present.”
The shamanic healers of many different indigenous Australia nations and cultures are sometimes known ‘clever men’ and in the Noongar cultures of Western Australia, the clever men were sometimes associated with the nocturnal birds to protect their tribe:
“ It is not uncommon to hear stories of how certain bulya or ‘clever’ men were believed to have the ability to transform themselves into a night bird such as the owl or mopoke and under this guise were able to watch over and ‘police’ campsites at night time to ensure that the inhabitants were safe from intruders, and also to act as a deterrent against young men becoming involved in sexual transgressions prior to initiation, or breaking the incest taboo. Culturally, the owl may be viewed as an agent of social control in that it is able to fly silently throughout the night, and aided by its powerful, penetrating night vision, is able to watch over people’s night time activities and then report back to the ‘clever man’ to whom it is considered a type of “familiar spirit’ ”
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.
In late August 2019, I visited Madrid, the capital city of Spain. Although Spain still has a royal family, the Royal Palace of Madrid is no longer occupied by the Spanish royal family and is open to the public on most days. You can read more here about my visit to the Spanish capital and the interesting history I learned while exploring Madrid.
Part of my visit to Madrid was to see the Real Palacio de la Madrid, built on the foundations of the Alcazar of Madrid, a medieval fortress, expanded into the massive royal palace, the residential palace of the Spanish royal family but now only used for administrative purposes.
Across from the royal palace, a short walk through the impressive golden gates is the beautiful Cathedral of La Almudena which stands opposite the royal residence separated by the wide ceremonial courtyard of the palace and above the plateau and sprawling gardens below. From the arched balconies of the main courtyard, the palace overlooks the royal woodlands and the expanse of gardens below.
During my visit to the palace, I was particularly interested in the museum collections of the Real Armeria de Madrid, an impressive collection of medieval and Renaissance weaponry and armor. The collection contains many original pieces from the Spanish royal family, collected over the generations including detailed displays of armory and weaponry throughout the late Medieval and Renaissance periods and into the late 19th century. In the lower floor of the Royal Armory are the historical parade armor worn by various kings and princes of the royal family, including pieces commissioned by Queen Isabel I of Castille including her own parade armor and that of her husband Ferdinand II of Aragon, both historically remembered for her campaign to unite southern Spain under Catholic rule, ending the last Islamic dynasty in Spain with the fall of Granada and the expulsion and persecution of non-Catholics in Spain.
I am participating in this year’s National Novel Writing Month (NaNoWriMo). After completing my first NaNoWriMo last year, I found it was a great motivational tool. This year, my goal is to write 30 thousand words and, from October to December, I plan to finish my novel-in-progress Ragnarok Dreaming. Follow me on Twitter, Facebook or Instagram or using the Social page on my website to stay updated on my progress. Wish me luck!
Human survival has always been dependent on the natural environment and many mythologies show links between folklore and human fear of environmental instability. I was curious to explore folklore dealing with how past and present cultures attempt to explain and avoid disastrous environmental fluctuations. As human survival is so clearly linked to a stable environment, natural disasters like floods, drought and severe storms have been explained by many different folktales, explaining how appeasing supernatural forces could avoid climatic catastrophe. Long and short-term disasters were often viewed as societies or specific families who had failed to appease the supernatural beings who had power over the environment. Such examples occur throughout different cultures and folklore but the common themes involve a bargain between the mortals inhabiting lands under the power of supernatural beings, whether they are the Fair Folk of Irish folklore, the jinn of the Middle East or powerful spirits of Japanese folklore. According to folklore, a bargain with these supernatural beings can protect the land from poor harvests, drought, floods or harsh winters. I am exploring how these bargains could occur over generations with supernatural beings acting as guardians for a specific family and the effect for the environment when reneging on such a bargain.
I have been working hard writing a large scene over several chapters in my novel-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming. The scene is based on a significant section in Norse mythology recorded in The Prose Edda, called the Skaldskaparmal, where Loki is portrayed for the first time as a more malicious being. The Skaldskaparmal describes Loki’s deliberate deception of the most innocent among the gods, Idunn who is also the guardian of immortality for the Aesir. In return for his own life, Loki promises Idunn to the mightiest of the frost giants, Thrazi. When Loki deceives Idunn into following him beyond the protective lands of the Aesir, she is kidnapped by Thrazi and held as his prisoner. Although Loki’s guilt is evident, his concern grows as the Aesir begin to age rapidly without Idunn tending the tree that provides the apples and their immortality. Odin has Loki beaten for his betrayal which has the desired effect to spur Loki’s conscience. He finally agrees to helps rescue Idunn from Thrazi‘s wintry mountain fortress. In truth, the Aesir are too weakened and aged to assault the mountain fortress, Thyrheim. Loki rescues Idunn and lures Thrazi back toward Asgard where Odin and Thor have built a bonfire. In the form of a hawk, Loki easily evades Thrazi’s eagle-form but Thrazi is caught by the flames and destroyed.Loki retains some of his humanity in the Skaldskaparmal but from now on, his considerations of the Aesir are complicated, alternating more swiftly from bitter dislike to a sense of familial belonging. Loki is neither Aesir nor truly of the jotnar but is caught somewhere in-between.
In my work-in-progress, Ragnarok Dreaming, I explore Loki’s conflict where he belongs to neither the giants nor the gods; a conscious and unconscious character motivation.
Ancient history and mythology have always been favorite topics for me. Recently, I found an interesting article on newly discovered sections of ancient Mesopotamian poem, The Epic of Gilgamesh, detailing the legendary feats of a historical king. The Epic of Gilgamesh was inscribed on cuneiform tablets which continue to baffle scholars as to the purpose of why these clay tablets are so small.I was interested in the mythology behind the zodiac, the legends behind creation of constellations rather than modern interpretations of astrology and divination. The constellation we know as Taurus, existed in the ancient Mesopotamian cultures and was also represented and embodied by a bull. In The Epic of Gilgamesh, the formation of the constellation the ancient Greeks later called Taurus, is described as a battle between the hero Gilgamesh and the Bull of Heaven, a destructive bull sent to avenge the goddess Ishtar after the wrongs committed by Gilgamesh. I wrote a speculative fiction story in a contemporary setting incorporating the Bull of Heaven based on Ishtar’s vengeance against Gilgamesh. I have added the destructive environmental effects caused by the Bull of Heaven and alluded to in The Epic of Gilgamesh.
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.