Complex

People are perplexing.  One of my regulars drives a motorized wheelchair.  He’s a pleasant looking young chap perhaps in his early thirties, neatly dress.  He probably has cerebral palsy because he stammers badly and when he gets off his chair, he walks crookedly and with difficulty.

We’ve had some nice chats since he moved into the area.  I thought he was down here in respite care while his parents were away on a cruise, but he seemed to be here for ages and ages – always longing to get home to his own place.  Then one day he was very excited because he was off to his hearing.  That was when he revealed that he was actually living in the area on a court order.  An AVO (Apprehended Violence Order) had been issued against him because he’d been stalking a local girl.  Maybe he only told me because he was certain the AVO would be lifted.  But it wasn’t and still hasn’t been after 6 months.

I realized that I had assumed that a guy in a wheelchair was harmless.  So I’m confronted with my own “ableism”.  Just because someone is disabled, doesn’t mean they can’t be dangerous or criminal as the next person.

Also as a good paid up member of the feminist sisterhood, should I be chatting pleasantly to someone who has stalked another woman?  Isn’t that just normalizing such behaviour?  And yet this is a situation that I know nothing about. Who am I to judge without knowing all the facts? Is it indulging in mob behavior to suddenly start snubbing him?

He has told me he’s sorry for the whole situation and that he just wants to go home.  I don’t know.  I guess in the end you just treat people as you would like them to treat you. I have a very strong belief in hating the sin, not the sinner.  Or maybe I just don’t like confrontation.

Small acts

One of my regulars had clearly come off her bicycle.  She was covered in dust and had a huge spike shaped red gash on her arm. With the train 2 minutes away she didn’t want me to do anything for her, but I insisted on getting her some damp paper towel to clean the still bleeding gash.  Then as the train rolled in a complete stranger stepped up and offered the lady one of those big band-aids in plastic for her gash!

Thank you, stranger. Another person who understands if you think someone should help someone, perhaps you’d better be the one to do it.

I’m a firm believer in taking responsibility for making the world a better place through small daily acts.  I’m getting more and more involved in Climate Change activism through a group called Climate for Change. http://www.climateforchange.org.au/ They encourage people to have everyday conversations about Climate Change concerns in order to encourage a ground swell of support for government action. The more of us pestering companies and M.P.’s the better. So now at when someone at the station says we’re having strange weather, I take my opportunity and say “This is what 1% climate change looks like.” I get some strange looks but also a lot of nods.  Scarey to think what 2% will look like.

The things you read

Those who know me, know I will read anything. Even the back of plastic water bottles found while tidying up the platform. This particular one assured me it didn’t just look good, it “had ancient wisdom” as well. That made me stop and take a closer look.

Apparently this is because it is “infused with native flower essences”. “Handpicked native flower essences” no less. Apparently Northern Australian indigenous people are involved in this process. I couldn’t resist taking a quick sniff of the remaining water, but I can’t smell anything floral. Perhaps that is because it is “refreshingly non-flavoured”

But I can smell something.

Ahh! The scent of male bovine manure.
P.S. School’s back and I had my first train surfers yesterday. They even wore balaclavas as they rode on the rear coupling. Guess the summer holidays are over.

Interview with actor and playwright Nick Backstrom

On Thursday night I went the see to see Train Man and the Rail Way – a quick-witted, hilarious look at the joys of customer service, trains and KNOBBIS by co-worker, Nick Backstrom .  Not only did it speak to me and the rest of the railway folks in the audience but the rest of the audience were chortling too.  Check it out if you can, it’s on at the Meat Market as part of the Melbourne Fringe, tonight (Saturday) at 8.00 and tomorrow night at 7.00 only $20.00 a ticket. A fun way to spend an evening.  (and there’s a bar and a Mac and Cheese Truck!)

 

 

I managed to have a quick chat with Backstrom.

Please tell us about Train Man and the Rail Way.  

The play is a comic lecture on how to be a better customer – based on my experiences doing customer service on the metropolitan railways.

 Does any particular incident stick out as an inspiration for the play?

The plays based on an accumulation of events, which fit a broad pattern. It’s when you give people correct information and they don’t believe you – that’s the most annoying.

What do you do for the railways?  Did you work there long?

I worked as a station officer for 6 years.  We sold tickets, topped up MYKI cards and provided information.

beware-of-trains

Tell us a little about yourself.  Born and bred where?  When did you decide to become an actor?  A playwright? Which do you like best?

I’m from Brisbane.  The decision to become an actor grew slowly while doing plays at school and uni and amateur shows.  I went back to uni to study drama at 26.  I enjoy both acting and playwriting. They each have different appeals.

What other things have you performed in?  Written?

I’ve appeared in over forty stage productions since graduating from USQ. I’ve done French farce in Western Queensland and ancient Greek drama in Cyprus. I was last on stage in JYM’s production of Merrily We Roll Along, but I’ve also appeared in Romeo and Juliet, and Henry IV 1, and Shakespeare’s Best Bits for the Australian Shakespeare company. Other highlights include The Importance of Being Earnest (Citizen Theatre) Playing Rock Hudson (Left Bauer) Sight unseen (Exhibit A- Theatre) and Yarrabah the musical (Opera Australia). I’ve played the Emperor in Amadeus, Benedick in Much Ado about Nothing, Bottom in A Midsummer night’s dream, Stephano in The Tempest (4MBS Classical Productions), Petruchio in The Taming of the shrew, Edmund in The Lion, the witch and the wardrobe, Hale in The Crucible, Antonio in Twelfth Night and the lead role in Charlie’s Aunt (Harvest Rain), roles in QTC’s A Streetcar named Desire and The Cherry Orchard.  I’ve also done film (Any questions for Ben) and television (Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries).
As a playwright, I’ve written and appeared in Who You Are, (La Mama),  On the riverbank, and Coffee in the park. My play A room with no view was performed in the 2010 UK Brighton Fringe Festival.

Do you write regularly or just when the spirit moves you?

I try to write regularly but it doesn’t always work out.

What’s your favourite afternoon snack from the Railway Station Kiosk?

White chocolate and raspberry muffins.

 

nick-backstrom

A large wheelie suitcase

Due to a sloppy head cold, nasty wet weather with a chilly wind playing off the snowfields and an upsurge in customers, last week was a tough one for yours truly.  I’ve had to break out my woolly vests for the first time in 3 years.

The increased visitors were the result of the school holidays, but there were also a large number of extra customers who had lost their gruntle due to buses at the nearby stop.  Trams are slow but buses in city traffic are slooooow.

“Very poor service!” snapped one entitled young woman in crisp, upper-class tones. “I’m going to miss my country train because of you.”

Her posh accent (Melbourne Grammar at least) made my hackles rise but I resisted temptation and refrained from pointing out that she’d cut her connection too fine if it was that important.  That never goes anywhere good.

But the toughest thing about last week was seeing M and C who once again find themselves homeless.

They showed up with a large suitcase having had to put their new-born baby into care with the Salvos.  So at least he is warm and dry.  Apparently they are able to visit him every day too.

Lately when M has showed up scrounging money “for milk for the baby” I’ve wondered if this unseen child actually exists, but their distress last week was palpable.

“It was awful leaving him.  Little M cried and then M cried and then I couldn’t help crying,” said C.

M tells me he was in care from the time he was six. I suspect he fears for his son as well.  Bad luck and small mistakes make a critical mass of difficulties that are difficult to get over.  There but for the grace of God …

What is Cli Fi?

What is CLI-Fi?

 

 

This week I asked Cat Sparks about to define (Climate Change fiction) in an interview in SFFWorld.

Cat Sparks TBP-cover-art

http://www.sffworld.com/2016/06/interview-with-cli-fi-author-cat-sparks/

Cat Sparks is a multi-award-winning author, editor and artist whose former employment has included: media monitor, political and archaeological photographer, graphic designer, Fiction Editor of Cosmos Magazine and Manager of Agog! Press. In 2012 an Australia Council emerging writers grant enabled her to participate in Margaret Atwood’s The Time Machine Doorway workshop in the U.S. She’s in the final throes of a PhD in climate change fiction. Her short story collection The Bride Price was published in 2013. Her debut novel, Lotus Blue, will be published by Talos Press in February.

Cat Sparks

 

Preconceptions

Noisy miner in the waiting room

Noisy miner in the waiting room

When working at the railway station or even just with the public, its important to keep an open mind. Last week I was giving the stink eye to a tough looking group of young men in hoodies and tattoos on platform 2 because I thought they were hanging around waiting to do a drug deal. I mean it’s the Zoo station!  There are children here!

I considered it particularly low that one of them had bought a baby capsule with him – clearly to hide his stash.  So I felt kind of mean when the train came in bringing a newcomer and one of them started showing the newcomer how the capsule worked.  I am so middle class!!  The capsule owner showed up later with his partner and toddler-in-pram and confirmed that yes, they had all been hanging around to pass the capsule on “to my cousin whose fiancée has just fallen pregnant.”  Just because someone is close to twenty and has tattoos doesn’t mean he can’t be a responsible family man, Jane.

On the other hand earlier this year a zoo-visiting Buddhist monk surprised me, by indicating I should use my broom to chase out the birds roving round the waiting room. I had expected him to be all “animals are my friends – all life is one” not “get that grubby bird out of the indoor space.” Another preconception bites the dust. Maybe I’m better off without either of them.

Aurealis Award winner Trent Jamieson

Jamieson_DayBoy2-669x1024

 

 

Congratulations on winning the 2015 Aurealis Award for both Best Fantasy and Best Horror novel! https://aurealisawards.org/  That’s amazing.

Thanks! I was completely surprised, and delighted.

It’s about Mark – a Day Boy who works for a Vampire, running chores, protecting his master during the day. It’s his last year as a Day Boy and he must decide how he is going to enter adulthood as man or monster or something not quite either. And, things don’t go smoothly at all. I kind of pitched it as To Kill a Mockingbird meets Dracula – which is a bit cheeky, but kind of the mood that the book went along. My mum didn’t like it because it was too violent – and she’s read all my stuff. I’ve promised her the next book is very different – but you never know with books.

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the book?

A very strong image I had of two boys smoking in a crypt flicking cigarettes at a coffin. I knew at once that they worked for vampires, but I wanted to know what they were like, how they had gotten so comfortable, even brazen, in their job. Everything sprang from that.

What are you working on at the moment?

A novel called the Stone Road. I’m just picking through a messy first draft and trying to work out what it’s about – which I think I know, now, but we’ll see. There are many drafts ahead.

You’re clearly a fan of Lovecraft and also devoted to Brisbane where you now live. Brisbane is nothing like the gloomy windy shores of New England. Is Brisbane a gothic place in your mind? What makes it so?Trent-Photo

Funnily enough I’m not that into Lovecraft other than the cosmic horror, though I tend to play around with it a lot less seriously in my work. But I adore Brisbane. It is not a gothic place in my mind at all, in some ways, like most cities, I guess, it’s a blank slate. But that’s just an invitation to artists. Brisbane is a place that drives some great fantasy writing. You’ll be seeing new fantasy and horror novels set in Brisbane by Angela Slatter and Gary Kemble in the next twelve months or so, and that excites me. I think it’s a city worth writing about, and you know, what makes a city great comes down to the community that lives in it, and the stories they tell. The more stories and art we have the richer the place we live in. Brisbane sings with stories, and I’m proud to be a part of that.

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away? Do you write every day? Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

I am slow and non-linear. And I slap scenes together and see how they work. I write thin – my early drafts are whisps – and then too thick, and then have to thin again. I don’t plan, but I do a lot of rewriting, structural and line-by-line – I don’t know if you’ve noticed here, but my punctuation is awful! I try and write every day, even if it’s only a few words. I don’t tend to do marathon sessions until I am editing and deadlines come into play. Otherwise it’s just chip, chip, chip and see what you end up with.

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

I have gotten worse at this over the years. I’m a bit weary of social media as a platform, or maybe just weary of the sound of my voice. As a place to have fun it’s great, but as a selling tool for me, I’m not so sure. I don’t spend nearly enough time on increasing interest in my work. But I am always open to anything interesting when it comes along, promotion wise. What I do do, I try and have fun with. If you’re going to promote you need to be creative, honest, and have fun. Writing books is the thing that interests me, and reading. Everything else is just waving flags (unless, you’re great at it, and there are some really wonderful self promoters out there) and hoping someone notices.

What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

I am terrible at narrowing things down to favourites. They always change, because I keep reading and listening, and you forget your favourites (well, I do, anyway), and then you encounter the work again and you remember that, yes, you listened to that album non-stop for a year. But there is a constant churn of inspiration. Currently it’s Ursula K. Le Guin’s Tombs of Atuan, N.K. Jemisin’s book The Fifth Season (which I am reading at the moment), and Cormac McCarthy’s Blood Meridian.

All of which are feeding into the new book whether I want them to or not.

http://www.trentjamieson.com/

Trent can be contacted at teacupthrenody at hotmail dot com

Trent Jamison 2

Interview with Sara Douglass Series Award Winner – Glenda Larke

This fortnight’s interviewee, Aurealis Award winner Glenda Larke brings her lifetime experiences of living in exotic places to the creation of wonderful fantasy worlds.

WG_The_Last_Stormlord_cover_US_UK

 

Congratulations on winning the inaugural Sara Douglass Series Award for the best Australian speculative fiction series completed between 2011 and 2014 with your Stormlord trilogy – The Last Stormlord, Stormlord Rising and The Stormlords Exile.https://aurealisawards.org/2016/03/25/the-winners-of-the-2015-aurealis-awards

Could you tell us something about the Stormlord Trilogy?

The first book, The Last Stormlord, introduces a world where it never rains, at least not naturally. Stormlords — men or women with power over water — use their magical control to bring water to the desert land. Unfortunately, the Stormlords have been dying off and water allowances are being reduced, prompting unrest and rebellion. As the land is torn apart by war, the unscrupulous attempt to control the only two young people who might one day just have enough power to provide solutions. The story continues in Stormlord Rising and concludes in The Stormlord’s Exile. Along the way, there’s love, battles, bravery, betrayal, tragedy, compromise, and ingenious use of water magic…

Can you pin-point an initial inspiration for the books? Reviewer Jason Nahrung suggested your experience of living in arid climates like WA and Tunisia may have influenced your use of the theme of water in these books.

 As a kid, I remember a West Australian summer on our farm when a rat fell into the rainwater tank. That was our only drinking water. We had to drain the tank and rely on the generosity of neighbours while we waited for rain — so I’ve always known how precious water is.

We lived in Tunis in North Africa for two years. When the wind blew from the south, there would be sand heaped against the outer walls of our house — sand from the Sahara. I visited a town in Algeria where, when it rains, they distribute rainwater from the wadi when it flows according to how many people in each household. We were there on the first wet day they had that year; it was in December. Now we live near Perth W.A., where the waterflow into the dams that serve the city has decreased from an average of about 400 gigalitres a year prior to 1975, to last year’s 12 gigalitres.

We take two minute showers now, and don’t plant a lawn.

All that is what inspired me to write the Watergivers trilogy. It wasn’t difficult to think of a scenario. Control of water has already been a weapon of war; the dictator Sadam Hussein quashed criticism and destroyed the culture and livelihoods of the Marsh Arabs in Iraq by draining their marshes. Control of water is already an economic weapon. Who has the right to water in California: the cities or the farmers? Who can use the water of the Rio Grande: USA or Mexico? Israel controls much of Palestine’s access to the water of the Jordan River basin — imagine how well that works out!

I hope readers immerse themselves in the story and care about the characters. I hope they find the can’t put the books down because of the tale of adventure it tells. But I also hope that some readers think about the issues, issues which are already shaping the world we live in. Unfortunately we don’t have magic to fix things. We only have ourselves.

What are you working on now?

 I’ve just finished another trilogy, The Forsaken Lands, based on the idea that if the Spice Islands of Asia had possessed magic when Europe tried to colonise them to control the spice trade, there may have been a different outcome. The first book is called The Lascar’s Dagger. (“Lascar” is a word given to Asian sailors who worked on European ships…) The trilogy has everything from pirates and sea battles to conniving queens, sorcerers — and a very sneaky dagger.

I’m working on a standalone fantasy now, as yet untitled, which might be the first in a series, if it’s successful. (My only other standalone was my very first published book, Havenstar.)

What’s your writing process for books? Do you throw a lot away?  Do you write every day?  Are you a planner or do you fly by the seat of the pants?

 I am a very messy writer. I did try meticulous planning once, but by the time I arrived at Chapter 3, I was way off the plan. I kept on thinking of better directions for the plot to go in!

Before I begin a book, there are three things I must have: an understanding of what makes the main characters tick; the ending (although it may change); and a vague theme — i.e. something that keeps the plot from running away in too many directions. I usually have a strong visual impression of some of the early scenes. But apart from that, I’m an explorer without a map, and yes, sometimes I get lost, I have to backtrack, or throw away the useless diversions. I rewrite a lot. (I always smile when neophyte writers ask, “How many times do you re-write? Two? Three?” The real answer to that is: “However many it takes.” Some parts will be perfect as soon as I write them; other parts might have 30 rewrites.)

As for how often I write: that too depends. Most of my books were written in between a day job and family commitments. I worked on a project basis, so when my day job was tough, writing was laid aside, sometimes for weeks. When job and publishing commitments clashed, things could get interesting. I remember reading the proofs of a novel at night in a pup tent in the rainforest during a tropical rainstorm — by candlelight. I wrote part of one of the Stormlord books chugging along on the deck of a slow fishing boat on the Kinabatangan River.

glenda

How do you go with social media? What do you do to increase interest in your work and how much time do you spend on it? Any tips?

Social media devours much more of my time than it should! I have no idea whether it’s terribly helpful with regards to selling books, although I try to keep people informed of what I’m up to. It’s so hard to assess what generates sales, and anyway, nowadays there is so much noise out there on social media that the occasional peep from an individual author just gets lost in the roar.

For me, I think social media is more important as a means of information and help (e.g. from fellow authors) to me. I value my online friendships because I find people can be so supportive and inspiring, even if we’ve never met. This is especially true of the Australian spec fic scene — readers, writers, industry professionals, convention organisers, etc — fabulous folk. Without them, I might have given up years ago.

You worked as a field ornithologist in Malaysia. Did this career have any influence on your writing?

Absolutely. Birds had a big part to play in The Isles of Glory books, and also in The Dagger’s Path. I think those avifaunal story lines succeeded only because I know my wild birds…

As well as that, when I worked in the field on bird conservation, I saw wonderful places — islands, cliffs, swamps, rainforests, mountains, lakes, rivers — scenes that inspired parts of different books.

 What 3 artworks (books, music, visual arts, films) have most inspired you?

It’s always been books, books, books with me (although I love classical music, especially 18th and 19th century symphonies, which I play while writing. I once lived just beside a path called Beethovengang…)

It’s hard to pinpoint special books out of the thousands. Susan Cooper’s The Dark is Rising was probably one of the first to set on a path to writing fantasy, although I actually decided I was going to be a writer when I was about eight and still into Enid Blyton’s Famous Five!  Oh, and Lord Juster’s present to the King in “The Fall of the Dagger” was  inspired by the Burghley Nef saltcellar of 1527, which you can see in the Victoria & Albert Museum in London.

If you want to know more about Glenda try:
http://glendalarke.com

http://glendalarke.blogspot.com

Twitter: @glendalarke

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/groups/105625628881/

 The Burghley Nef saltcellar, 1527 from The Victoria & Albert Museum, London

Difficult lives

Melbourne Street Art by Kranky. It doesn't have anything to do with the story, but it looks like those dolls are having a difficult time.

Melbourne Street Art by Kranky. It doesn’t have anything to do with the story, but it looks like those dolls are having a difficult time.

Looking back over my blog posts, I’ve noticed the station stories are much darker these days.  In the old days it used to be about getting cakes from men in wheelchairs.

This Thursday when I got to the junction they were running all the trains through Platform 4 until the ambulance came for the man who had passed out right on the edge of Platform 2.  The police arrived and recognized him as someone they’d just booked for assault, which made the ambo’s a bit jumpy.  But when he woke up he went away quietly enough, though with a police escort in the ambulance. The trains switched back to Platform 2

The saga of M and C continues.  C has disappeared again and M has reported her missing to the police.  He used my phone to call her father who denied knowledge of her whereabouts but said he’d look. M worries that she has gone back to her violent ex.  I worry full stop. Who knows what goes on between a couple?

I like them both especially M who is outgoing and personable in a kind of larrikin way. He seems to have a tremendous urge to take care of people which is sad because I see in him a nurse or elderly care person wasted.  I’m not sure how he comes to be living on the street and can’t find out without seeming to pry.  Perhaps it’s the lunchtime bourbon and cokes.  Certainly from the stories he tells me it seems that when he has had choices to make, he’s always made the wrong one.

Still this is a judgement free zone so I give him change for the phone and store his spare iced coffee in my fridge (the kind of thing lots of station staff do) At the moment I’m asking around to see if I can get him a new backpack because the straps on the old one which holds all his worldlies is broken.  I have a strong sense that you should be the change you want to see, as the saying goes, but if I was a truly good person I’d invite him to live in my spare room.  I want to be helpful but at the same time I’m worried – about not crossing boundaries and about whether I’m being a fool to trust M as much as I do.  My bosses would certainly not be pleased if he set up house in my waiting room.