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On Tuesday night I did a book event at Paperchain bookstore in Manuka. I was interviewed about why I wrote about nasty beasts in  the Dragon Wine series by the wonderful and clever Craig Cormick.

Donna Maree Hanson

Donna Maree Hanson

A bunch of great people came along, some friends, work colleagues and people whom I’ve never met. I had a fair dose of nerves beforehand, which freaked me a bit. I’m not shy normally and don’t have a problem with public speaking. I figured this time there was nothing between me and my audience and that might account for the stage fright. I had to front up and talk about my creative work. Not about my day job. Not introducing another writer etc or talking about writing retreats etc. This was me answering questions about Dragon Wine. It was stimulating and exciting and scary at the same time.

I was going to write this post up just after the event while it was all fresh in my mind, but I went out to dinner and got home late. I didn’t drink or anything because I had a surgical procedure the next day. I’m at home today recovering.

So we were there to talk about my dark, epic fantasy novel Shatterwing, book 1 in the Dragon Wine series. Some people would call it grim and dark.

Craig asked me about the opening scenes with grapes and dragon dung.Where did that come from? I used to have a little vineyard and I’d be there pruning, checking for disease, spraying etc day after day. Being a writer I imagined stories etc. Originally the beginning of the series was going to be a short story, a vignette about the young boy and his mentor. In this case it was going to be a woman instead of an old man and in the end the kid says see you later instead of following on some quest. People who read it thought it was a chapter one of a larger work and so I kept writing.

During the interview we talked about about what the story was about. I said it was about how low human kind can go and what makes us worth saving. That’s what it’s about for me. The narrative is mostly about Salinda and her quest to save people and definitely about finding a way to save the planet. There is a cast of characters who help her with that.

We also talked about the dragons. Not so much about why dragons but about what they symbolised for me as a writer and in the story. When the world, Margra, was split thousands of years before, dragons appeared. They ate the bodies of the dead, billions of them. Dragons have their own essential magic and for me this is a life energy, a gaia-type magic, and probably the dragons symbolise the environment. People need dragons to survive except they don’t know it. We need the environment to survive and we do know it some of the time. That’s what comes to mind for me.

Often while writing this story over the years, I’ve toyed with the idea of calling the dragons something else, but I couldn’t think of anything else that didn’t sound lame. Once I described them they would sound like dragons to a reader. When I looked into dragons, they are part of many cultures’ mythology so why not Margra’s as it was a human-based one? I’ve not read much dragon fiction myself but there you go– Dragon wine from grapes grown in dragon dung.

Other things we talked about was the nasty world and where I got that from. Craig said he expected it to be more brutal given what some people say about the book and he was left wanting. Others the content is a bit too much. This really goes to show you how subjective reading is and also the tolerance for brutality. Some scenes in Shatterwing are not comfortable reads and nor are they meant to be. One reader comment I saw online said she stopped reading because the language got flat in those scenes so her reason for stopping was two fold-content and form. The flattening of the language was deliberate on my part. The scene stood for itself and there wasn’t any way I could embellish it with language without feeling like I was glorifying it. I just kept to the facts.

The humans are nasty in the story. I did a bit of research into what people do to each other when they have control. For example, the Stamford Prison Experiment. Then the revelations coming out of Iraq. Pretty looking people, the people on the side of right, debasing Iraqi prisoners. What a shocker! Another aspect for me was growing up during the ‘Cold War’ and worrying about surviving a nuclear holocaust. I was living in NZ at the time and we were meant to be one of the lucky countries. There were articles in the paper about growing food, about surviving. But I always thought that there would be a law and order issues. I might have a garden but I’d have to defend it from someone who wanted my food. Also, just to add a bit of perspective, I was abused as a child. If you couldn’t trust the people closest to you, how could you trust others? I’ve seen glimpses of bad stuff people do. That has to colour my perspective. And the icing on the cake, well just listen to the news as there is a lot of bad stuff happening in the world. So Margra is a planet with very little rule of law. It’s petty war lords and corrupt government and rebels fighting whoever is in charge and each other. Not a nice world at all.

I’m going to leave it there for now.

Dragon Wine Series Book 1 and 2

Dragon Wine Series Book 1 and 2

It’s been a month now since Skywatcher was released so I guess it’s time I calmed down and stopped looking at what people are saying about both Shatterwing and Skywatcher. It’s time to develop some composure, some sense of being a writer. What does that even mean?

You put to work out there in the world and people are going to like it, think it’s ‘meh’ or that it stinks. As a writer you are not meant to care, and you’re definitely not meant to engage, unless people actually ask questions, which they usually don’t. (BTW I’m happy to answer questions about the story. However, I won’t be giving out spoilers for future installments.)

It’s creates a big jumble of emotion and intellect seeing what people say about your work. There have been highs (amazing and exciting highs) and there have been cutting lows, especially negative comments from people who you know and respect. I was tempted to respond, to explain myself, but that’s not on. That’s not how it goes. I have to live with it. There comes a point where you have to step back from that. You have to develop as Zen sense of calm. (I’m searching around here for some incense and quiet space, bother there are none.)

It’s also very distracting getting excited, then upset. It could be hormones (they are a bit crazy at the moment) but I’m sure other writers struggle with the same thing. That initial roller coaster ride of being published.  Maybe it’s childish to think of my story as my baby. The novel is a form on entertainment. You write for people to read. If they love what you do that’s great. If not it’s tough luck-tough love!

Although I appear to be whinging don’t I? I’m not really whinging, I’m struggling to adjust, to reorganise my mindset. I’m so happy with the reception of the Dragonwine series. I love what Momentum Books have done, the covers, the promotion. I am amazed at the thoughtful, respectful reviews, even those that have taken issue with what I’ve done. I am inspired and awed by that. It must be a good thing if people get upset and angry about what happens to the characters or the twist in the plot. I know why things happen and I guess I know how it all ends up, although I’ve not written the ending yet.

I’m amazed people around the world are reading Shatterwing and Skywatcher and talking about it in another language, even though they read the book in English. I didn’t expect it to be like this. I didn’t really expect anything. I’m just starting out. I need all the help I can get to get noticed. I’m humbled. I’m grateful and I’m tantalised that people are reading about Salinda, Brill, Danton, Nils, Laidan and Garan and reacting. I have to say a big thank you to those reviewers and readers. THANK YOU!

And to give you something to look at, here is the Tower of London and the ww1 remembrance day installation. It was an amazing sight. So many people died. These poppies represent the British soldiers.

Tower of London, WW1 remembrance day installation

Tower of London, WW1 remembrance day installation

I’m very lucky to have Keith Stevenson visiting the blog today to talk about writing and his science fiction novel, Horizon.

keith_stevenson_colour_hi_res

Can you tell us a bit about your new novel?

Horizon is a science fiction thriller, where personal and political differences between a small group of space explorers play out in the cramped confines of a starship far from Earth, with repercussions for the future survival of the rest of humanity. I wanted to write something that set believable characters, with their own fears, weaknesses and biases, in an extraordinary situation while addressing the key issue of our time: climate change, how we respond – or fail to respond – to it and what that means for our future. It also has quite a bit of cool science about travelling through space and exploring new planets, but at its heart it’s an adventure story.

Keith can tell us a bit about yourself?

Well I’m originally from Scotland, but settled in Australia in 1989 and now live in Wollongong. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in some really cool projects, firstly as submissions manager and later editor of Aurealis Magazine, and organising convenor of the Aurealis Awards when they were still in their relative infancy; then founding my own publishing company coeur de lion with fellow author Andrew Macrae, publishing a lot of excellent Australian spec fic authors (and picking up more than a few awards); running the Terra Incognita speculative fiction podcast which featured the best Australian speculative fiction read by the authors who created it; and most recently launching Dimension6 the free and DRM-free electronic spec fic magazine.

All through that time, and even before, I’ve always been writing. I actually started writing horror stories for a class magazine in primary school. I’m a really slow writer, so I’ve only had a handful of short stories published in Aurealis Magazine, Agog! Fantastic Fiction, and ASIM. And Horizon took a lot of time to come together.

Tell us a bit about why you are write SF?

I love he hopefulness of science fiction, even when it’s SF where bad stuff happens, because at the very least it posits a future where humanity still survives. When I was a kid I read in a junior encyclopaedia that the sun would eventually swell up and destroy the Earth, killing everyone on the planet. That really upset me, regardless of the fact that fate was billions of years in the future. It was pretty soon after I discovered science fiction and realised that was our escape plan – the future imagined by SF writers is a future that has to come about in order to save us all.

Later as I read more and more, I understood that SF was also an ideal way to dissect and interrogate the present, magnifying trends or playing out ‘what ifs’ to demonstrate the underlying truth of the world around us. And it’s a genre that lends itself easily to amazing, adventurous stories. It’s an incredibly powerful and underrated genre. There should be more of it.

I understand that you have been working on this novel [for a long time?]. What kept you going back to this story?

First novels are pretty daunting. I was lucky because Horizon was my ‘project novel’ while I was studying Professional Writing Course, so my approach was very structured. I had to write a proposal for my tutor, exploring the ideas and forms I wanted to portray, and a detailed chapter by chapter synopsis, and then turn in 3,000 words every fortnight for group critting. By the end of it, I had 60,000 words of fairly robust text, which was a big leg up to getting the thing finished. Of course it still took a long time to finish, but I had developed the characters so much that I wanted to see how it all panned out for them, and how believable I could make the whole story. It’s the same with the space opera I’m writing, which I talk a little more about below. Those books have taken me years, but I have to go back to finish the story because I owe it to my protagonist. I’ve made a promise that I won’t leave him high and dry. But I’m also just enjoying writing a massive adventure.

Can you tell us a bit about what’s coming next (is there a sequel)?

Horizon was always envisaged as a standalone. There’s room for a prequel based on the events on Earth as well as a sequel, but I like the story as it is. The crew learn what’s happened on Earth while they’ve been in hibernation and the book ends with a very neat jumping off point that leaves the reader to imagine what might happen next. My focus was on the character interplay as part of the present action and how they deal with the dangers and threats that face them.

What are you working on at the moment?

Aha, well this is another long term project.  The Lenticular Series trilogy is a huge galaxy-spanning space opera with lots of alien species, space battles etc., which will hopefully see the light of day in a couple of years. It has at its core a really strong character study of a person (alien actually) who loses everything, achieves some sort of redemption but almost destroys himself in the process. That’s really given me a solid backbone to build lots of action and intrigue around and I’m really enjoying writing on such a big canvas.

What is your writing process? (planner, panster, write every day, write sporadically, writers block etc).

I map out key plot beats, where I know characters will end up at point A, B, C on the storyline and then I tend to just write towards that beat. I prefer to write longhand for the first draft, because it really slows me down to think about the action as it’s unfolding. It also lets me follow impulses (and maybe stray off the main throughline to explore and develop related ideas). That’s allowed me to build in whole side plots I hadn’t considered in the planning stage. I pretty much go at that day in day out until I’ve written through to the end point – which may not be the end point I envisaged at the start. After that it’s into the rewrite phase, interrogating what I’ve written and trying to coalesce it and also look for missed opportunities, things that are not working, or aren’t fresh enough and so on. At some point I’ll sub the ms to Serapeum, which is a group of Australian writers who meet every year or so and is solely focused on novel development. If I please those guys, I know I’m on the right track. Then it’s more rewrites until I think it’s ready – to be put through the wringer by an editor, that is!

I’ve never encountered writer’s block. I tend to stop writing in the middle of a scene, so I know where to pick things up the next day. Richard Harland does something similar and he’s never been afflicted with it either.

What do you prefer drafting the story or revising and reworking?

I really like the discovery of first drafts. It’s almost dreamlike the way lines of dialogue float onto the page. But I also love the invention of revising, when you’ve just read something you wrote a while back and it suddenly falls into place with something else, creating possibilities you hadn’t considered before.

What part of writing do you find hardest?

Making it right. Work can always be improved and at some point you have to trust someone else – an editor – to help you do that. A fresh set of eyes really makes a difference and I am very much in awe of what a really good trade editor can do across a whole spectrum of things from making ideas gel better to really making the language sing. Authors are often too close to their work to do that for themselves.

What do you plan to work on next?

Well I need to redraft book 2 of The Lenticular and then start on drafting book 3. That will keep my busy for a long while, I suspect. After that I have an urban thriller I worked on as a screenplay with Paul Haines many years back. I’d love to dust that off and see if it can be turned into a novel.

Thank you, Keith. Those are some very insightful and indepth answers. Here is the book cover image and the blurb.

Horizon book cover

Horizon book cover

Thirty-four light years from Earth, the explorer ship Magellan is nearing its objective – the Iota Persei system. But when ship commander Cait Dyson wakes from deepsleep, she finds her co-pilot dead and the ship’s AI unresponsive. Cait works with the rest of her multinational crew to regain control of the ship, until they learn that Earth is facing total environmental collapse and their mission must change if humanity is to survive.

As tensions rise and personal and political agendas play out in the ship’s cramped confines, the crew finally reach the planet Horizon, where everything they know will be challenged.

____________________________________________

“Refreshingly plausible, politically savvy, and full of surprises, Horizon takes you on a harrowing thrill-ride through the depths of space and the darkness of the human heart.” – Sean Williams, New York Times bestselling author of the Astropolis and Twinmaker series

“Crackling science fiction with gorgeous trans-human and cybernetic trimmings. Keith Stevenson’s debut novel soars.” – Marianne De Pierres, award-winning author of the Parrish Plessis, Sentients of Orion and Peacemaker series
You can say hi to Keith on Twitter and Facebook and on his blog.

https://www.facebook.com/keithstevensonwriter

@stevenson_Keith

http://www.keithstevenson.com/

The lovely guys at Dymocks Belconnen hosted an author event at their store on Friday night 31 October, Halloween.

I had a fab time with Craig Cormick, Jack Heath and Dan O’Malley, strutting our stuff and signing books.

I had copies of Shatterwing and Skywatcher. Dan O’Malley had copies of The Rook. Heads up, his new book Stiletto is coming out in 2015. Craig Cormick had two books going, Shadowmaster , published by Angry Robot Books and Time Vandals, a book for younger readers. Jack Heath had a stack of books to sell, his latest Enigma amongst them. Not only is he a very talented young man (his first book, The Lab, was published when he was 18)  he’s very tall.

WE HAD A FAB TIME. THANK YOU FOR COMING. WE HAD A FAB TIME. THANK YOU FOR COMING. WE HAD A FAB TIME. THANK YOU!
Too busy chatting to pose for a photo

Too busy chatting to pose for a photo

Jack, Craig, me and Dan

Jack, Craig, me and Dan

We had lots of fun in between signing books and chatting to people. Thank you to all of you who came along.

Sharon and me

Craig, Sharon,  me and Ian McHugh

.Dymocks poster Dymocks poster

And a lovely photo of me taken by Craig Cormick, close to the end of the night. I believe I’m holding a black balloon.

Donna Maree Hanson

Donna Maree Hanson

Shatterwing and Skywatcher are available in print either online http://www.momentumbooks.com.au or Amazon stores. You can also order them in through your bookstore. Remember ebooks are available from Amazon Kindle, iBooks, Kobo, Barnes and Noble, and other eretailers.

Today I have Justin Woolley here talking about post-apocalyptic fiction, which happens to be one of my favourite topics.

Justin Woolley

Justin Woolley

 

The Appeal of Post-Apocalyptic Fiction

Hi readers, and thanks for hosting me on your blog Donna. Given that my debut novel A Town Called Dust is a post-apocalyptic story set in the Australian outback and we have a shared love of post-apocalyptic fiction I thought I’d talk a little about why I enjoy post-apocalyptic fiction, and why I think the genre has become so popular recently.

I think the appeal of post-apocalyptic fiction is rooted in the appeal of all fiction, overcoming conflict, and if we think about it is there any conflict as great as tearing down the world and forcing people to survive? It doesn’t matter whether the apocalypse is a natural disaster, a plague, an alien invasion or the zombie variety, in the end it symbolises great adversity that people can relate to. We all have times when we feel like our world is crumbling around us.

Of course post-apocalyptic fiction often holds a mirror up to humanity and shows us our darker side. I think that is another reason both authors and audiences love it. It’s a way to pose the question: if our civilisation is torn down around us, if the rules are gone, what do we become? Are humans little more than animals willing to kill each other to survive or will we maintain our morals, is that what defines us? Hence why, as is often the case, the cause of the apocalypse is often not as sinister as the humans that remain. A great example of this is The Walking Dead, in either the comic or the TV show the ongoing theme is that the real enemies are the other survivors, not the zombies.

You also asked me why I chose to set my post-apocalyptic story in the Australian outback. I think the answer to that is two-fold. Firstly, being Australian I wanted to set a book here simply because I know the country and while I think the book has universal appeal I also wanted something special for an Australian audience, that buzz you feel when a book is set in a place you know. Second, the Australian desert is a rich landscape and one that really invokes a feeling of vast emptiness, even lawlessness, and in many ways it already feels post-apocalyptic – just think of Mad Max the imagery of the Australian desert perfectly captures the feel of a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

 So that’s why I choose to write post-apocalyptic fiction, to explore how humanity may face the destruction of everything we know, plus zombies are awesome!

Thanks Justin. That’s great! And congratulations to Momentum for publishing another fab speculative novel.

A Town Called Dust will be released on November 13th, 2014 and is available to preorder now: http://momentumbooks.com.au/books/a-town-called-dust/

A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley

A Town Called Dust by Justin Woolley

 

And here is the blurb !!   A Town Called Dust

Stranded in the desert, the last of mankind is kept safe by a large border fence, until the fence falls.

Squid is a young orphan living under the oppressive rule of his uncle in the outskirts of the Territory. Lynn is a headstrong girl with an influential father who has spent her entire life within the walled city of Alice.

When the border fence is breached, the Territory is invaded by the largest horde of undead ghouls seen in two hundred years. Squid is soon conscripted into the Diggers, the armed forces of the Territory. And after Lynn finds herself at odds with the Territory’s powerful church, she too escapes to join the Diggers.

Together Squid and Lynn form an unlikely friendship as they march to battle against the ghouls. Their journey will take them further than they ever imagined, leading them closer to discovering secrets about themselves, their world, and a conspiracy that may spell the end of the Territory as they know it.

Thank you Justin. You can find Justin on the web.

www.justinwoolley.net or follow him on Twitter: @Woollz.

 

 

 

 

Over the labour day long weekend, I attended Conflux SF Convention. It was a local SF convention with a nice, cozy crowd. On the Saturday morning, I was being the timelord for the pitching sessions. This means I wrangled the editors taking pitches and the authors pitching novels. It was a really good space to be in. Full of hope and anticipation on both sides. It also stopped me being nervous about my launch.

Just after that was my scheduled book launch for Shatterwing. Shatterwing is a dark, epic fantasy, set on a post-apocalyptic world where mankind is at its lowest ebb. It has dragons, but maybe the humans are the worst kind of beast on this world.

In the lead up I wasn’t sure I was going to get books. But they arrived on Friday. I was so excited I couldn’t sit still. Yes, I almost wet myself. A guy I work with helped carry the boxes up to my office and then he bought the first copy. I liken it to receiving my first degree. Something I’d never thought would happen to me and a great personal achievement. So publishing Shatterwing is up there with that.

I’ve had ebooks published before, and that was amazing. The launch for Rayessa and the Space Pirates was so much fun and real highlight in my life. Here is the picture of the UFO cake I made for that launch.

ufo cake 1

There are two things that make this launch extra special for me. This is Dragon Wine. The book I’ve been working on the longest, the book that I poured a lot of myself into. It is special to me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love all my stories and the characters, but this has my blood, sweat and tears in it. The other thing is that this has a print copy! Like wow! I can hold this, wave it about and I can see it. This is useful when you know a lot of people who don’t read ebooks, don’t get ebooks and don’t really think you have published anything.

Me with the first copies of Shatterwing

Me with the first copies of Shatterwing

So even though I didn’t think there would be books, I wanted to have the launch anyway to celebrate with my spec fic buddies, because well why the hell not. As it turned out there were books. Thank you to my publisher Momentum Books. They look lovely btw.

In a previous post I talked about the launch shoes. I didn’t quite organise the dress so I wore this lovely retro dress.

Launch shoes from the UK (Irregular Choices)

Launch shoes from the UK (Irregular Choices)

Me in my dress and shoes

Me in my dress and shoes

I stole Keri Arthur’s shoe mojo when I got those. I was also inspired to buy them by Nik Vincent in Maidstone, Kent. The dress is my own kind of weakness. The swing style hides a lot of flaws.

The launch was heating up. The books were on display. The drinks were arriving. My son, Taamati and my daughter Shireen (Beans) came along. Beans isn’t in the photo as she looked liked she’d been a the gym. My friend Deb Kelly came down from Queensland to be at the launch. Waves to Deb. That was an amazing thing for her to do. Thank you so much Deb.

Taamati and me

Taamati and me

The wonderful Cat Sparks agreed to launch the book for me and good buddie Nicole Murphy was the MC and my lovely partner manned the receipt book.

Nicole, dragon, me and Cat (photo by Robert Hood)

Nicole, dragon, me and Cat (photo by Robert Hood)

Cat just happened to have this amazing dragon at her house, which matched the colours of Plu in the book. Here is a shot with Cat and her dragon. It is beautiful and enormous and I have envy.

Cat Sparks and her dragon

Cat Sparks and her dragon

 

 

Cat launched the book, highlighting some of the world building elements and stuff about me. She gave people a warning about the darkness in it. Nicole made me read while people got their drinks and pizza.

Me signing Shatterwing (photo by Cat Sparks)

Me signing Shatterwing (photo by Cat Sparks)

 

Then came the signing. People bought books and I signed them. People who I knew and some of whom I didn’t and that was very touching. Thank you all for coming and celebrating with me.

Me reading a scene from Shatterwing (photo by Cat Sparks)

Me reading a scene from Shatterwing (photo by Cat Sparks)

Nicole chose a scene for me to read because I hadn’t prepared anything and I couldn’t decide in case it was a spoiler. A bit pathetic of me I know.

Donna-dragonAnd to finish a shot of me signing again. A great photo by Cat Sparks. I am very grateful to Cat for reading and launching Shatterwing. I know she is very busy with her PhD and writing so I appreciate it, heaps. Many thanks to  Nicole Murphy for MCing and being a great support. Hugs to Russell and Kylie for making the launch. And Keri Arthur and Tracey O’Hara! Thank you to my Canberra Speculative  Fiction Guild buddies. Thank you to those of you who attended who were too many to name. I really am humbled by your support.

Donna Maree Hanson (photo Cat Sparks)

Donna Maree Hanson (photo Cat Sparks)

One of the topics I thought was interesting was the types of characters one sees in fantasy and science fiction, that is that they are mostly white. While I’ve not read ‘all the fantasy’ out there, there are a number that I’ve read that do. Some exceptions to this are NK Jemison and Earthsea by Ursula Le Guin among others. My Dragon Wine series features people of mixed race. This is because it’s a post apocalyptic world and because of the destruction people intermarried to survive, so only a very few people would be all white or all black or Asian etc. My main protagonist Salinda is brown skinned and of mixed race. I didn’t consciously try to make my characters non-anglo it was just the result of the world setting.

Today I’ve invited Patty Jansen to the blog to talk about her use of non-anglo characters. Take it away Patty.

Patty Jansen

Patty Jansen

When Donna asked me to blog about what inspires me to use non-Anglo characters, my first thought was: do I need inspiration for that? They’re part of society, part of my life. They have pasts, and because I write SF, I’m interested in their futures. They’re people.

If we can say one thing about the future, it’s that it won’t be “more of the same” of what we have today. It has never been that way in all of humanity’s messy history. History is made up out of interwoven strands that sometimes don’t make sense until you understand the context.

Far too often, science fiction tells the author’s view of the future from a one-sided perspective, usually American, white and male. In my fiction, I strive to make it less monolithic. There are many segments of society whose histories deserve to be pondered on, extrapolated and told.

The majority of people in the world are non-Anglo. I use them in my fiction in hopefully the same way they are used in Harry Potter. For example, nowhere in all of the seven Harry Potter books is it mentioned out loud that the Patel twin sisters are Indian. Of course you can see that they’re Indian. Their name gives it away. So why point at it when it’s not a plot point, as if saying “Hey, LOOK! I’m using a non-Anglo character!!” That sort of pointing out, when done to any minority character, just annoys the crap out of me. As if minority characters are only allowed in a book when they’re a plot point. What rubbish.

Non-Anglo characters play an important role especially in my ISF-Allion interlinked series of novellas and novels. In this world, the future goes like this:

When various problems (disaster, wars, lack of money) forces western countries to scale down the space program, a group of normally disenfranchised people picks up the ball and runs with it: a conglomerate of applied sciences students who study in western countries, but who come from the poorest and most repressive/repressed countries and societies in the world. This group would never have gotten off the ground without two people: the brains and drive of Fatima “Ally” Al Alamein and the financial backing of heiress Marion Gluck. The company they form is Allion Aerospace, the name a combination of their names. They are the first to put a person on Mars. That person is Chandra Lee, a woman, half Indian, half Chinese, not a drop of western blood in sight. The company with a 90% female workforce operates on a shoestring budget (relatively speaking) and makes huge strides because it attracts smart people for whom even the risk of dying in a Mars mission is better than their current lack of opportunities. Within a short time span, Allion has a huge work force, space bases and some ingenious hardware.

Meanwhile the western countries and their International Space Force are forced to do a huge catch-up mission. Their mantra is big and cumbersome, and when they can’t find enough people to crew their huge space stations, they resort to “resettling” people from the poorest, dilapidated cities in the world at that time. They are the people from low-lying areas (Jakarta, Bangladesh) and victims of desertification in India/Pakistan and Africa. Parts of the world that, even today, white men in power do not care about. Here we have colonial behaviour all over again.

These two groups of non-Anglo characters end up on opposite sides of the spectrum. The Allion women, mostly Africans, Indians, Chinese and Arabs and their high-controlled, high-tech environment, versus the raw hardship of the displaced mining workers. While the ISF methods sound akin to slavery, Allion has some very “interesting” ideas (not in a good way) about what constitutes a human being and also about free choice and privacy. There are no angels in this world.

Shifting Reality is a novel that takes place on a giant space station at Epsilon Eridani, amongst second and third generation forced migrants from the slums of Jakarta. Seventy years after their forced departure from Indonesia, they’re no longer Indonesian, but they’ve morphed into something else through circumstance and the tyranny of distance.

I did a lot of reading to construct this society. It is not faithfully cultural and was never intended to be. But there are plenty of weird, quirky and mostly just plain different customs that have morphed into a multi-pronged, diverse Indonesian-based cultural melting pot. There are the political groups, the gossipy block associations where ground-level politics happens between men who want power and old women who hold said power, there are the gay and transvestite bars, there are the religious hypertechs, where men and women both wear face veils, who abstain from “pleasure” and who are a fertile breeding ground for unusual technological, uhm, solutions, including hacking, spyware and other illegal stuff. While the cliché has us see Indonesians visit temples, Indonesia is the largest Muslim country in the world, and my characters adhere to the Indonesian brand of Islam which is fairly relaxed and has a good deal of traditional stuff thrown in. Did you know that the spread of Islam to Indonesia dates back to the 1400s?

I wanted to construct a possible future culture that was not based on western ideology and western values. Because often when writers use non-Anglo characters, they still operate in an Anglo cultural framework. I’d encourage other writers to think beyond their borders. Not only is not every person who matters in the world Anglo, not all cultures aspire to be Anglo either.

Patty Jansen is an author of 15 novels and numerous short works of science fiction and fantasy. Find out more about Patty’s fiction here. Find out more about the novel Shifting Reality here. Patty is also on twitter and Facebook and talks about writing, photography and other random things on her blog Must Use Bigger Elephants.

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