Tag Archives: fantasy

New Release: And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Volume 1

and-then-cover-onlyIn 2015, Clan Destine Press launched an Indiegogo fundraiser to create a fabulous anthology of rollicking adventure stories!

Just over a year later, on 31st December 2016, And Then…: The Great Big Book of Awesome Adventure Tales Volume 1 sprang into the world, arms upraised, TA DAAAAAA! to be at least one good thing in 2016.

Clan Destine invited some of Australia and New Zealand’s best genre writers to be part of the anthology, and I’m very proud to have been one of them. In Volume One, I keep excellent company with so many people whose work I admire: Sulari Gentill,  Jason Nahrung, Alan Baxter, Jason Franks, Lucy Sussex, Amanda Wrangles, Evelyn Tsitas, Peter M Ball, Dan Rabarts, Kat Clay, Sophie Masson, Tor Roxburgh, Emilie Collyer and Tansy Rayner Roberts.

This volume contains 15 stories of adventures: each with two heroes, each with a touch of something Aussie or Kiwi about them – but otherwise set across different times and places, from Goldrush Melbourne to outer space.

And Then… is edited by Ruth Wykes and Kylie Fox, with title page illustrations by Vicky Pratt and cover art by Sarah Pain

My story, ‘Virgin Soil’, teams a young man with magical powers with a shapeshifter, a man-turned-rat (or vice-versa; he doesn’t remember how he started). Some people might think they’re black magicians, and possibly they are, but someone has to do the dirty work, even on the side of the good guys. It’s set in 1851 during Melbourne’s gold rush years and involves virgin sacrifice – but maybe not the type you’re thinking of.

An excerpt from Virgin Soil:

Rain had made a mud creek of Queen Street, and the blighted stuff stuck like tar to boots of toff and toiler alike. All these thousands milling off the ships at the wharf were no ruddy help either. Sooner the fools were all off to Ballarat for the diggings, the better; or it would be, if there weren’t thousands more on their way, just as foolhardy.

Lucius wove in and out of the crowd, as mud-footed as the rest and more threadbare than most. He darted between the shifting bodies, dodging low to look under elbows and past waists, or stood on tiptoe trying to see over shoulders, and much luck to him, little titch that he was. Finally, he caught sight of his quarry. He shouldered between a burly blacksmith with his knapsack and a Chinaman late arrived from California’s Gold Mountain in pursuit.

‘Oi, Cato,’ said Lucius, coming up shoulder-to-shoulder with his wiry mate, ‘Put it away, eh?’

The accosted Cato, as grubby and as threadbare as his friend, raised an eyebrow at him, his clear blue eyes all bemused, until Lucius jerked his head at Cato’s rear endage, and at the long, slender, and slightly scaly tail that hung down low enough to be seen under Cato’s  weathered Dutch pea jacket.

‘Oh, go to,’ Cato cheerily scolded his tail. He wriggled and the tail disappeared, not only from under the jacket but back into his actual flesh, ‘Alas, I forget to reel the whole in, sometimes.’

‘Well, it is a handsome tail,’ Lucius observed. His eyes were also blue, and sometimes he and Cato were mistaken for brothers, though there was no blood and 260 years between them. Yet they were brothers enough.

Cato plucked at Lucius’s sleeve. ‘There’s the fellow.’ He nodded at a strapping young lad of 19 or so standing with his whiskered father, directing the unloading of goods from The Lady Jane, new arrived from the old country, that had something more useful than gold-diggers on board.

‘Aye,’ breathed Lucius, head close to Cato’s, ‘That’s our virgin lad. It’s a shame. He seems a good chap.’

Fourteen people nearly trod them into the mud for standing still, so they lifted their heels and went with the stream a little way, till they could draw aside into the relative stillness of a cart awaiting a load. One of the horses blew a raspberry with its big hairy lips and gave Cato an affronted look, but horses never paid him much mind. Dogs were another matter.

‘If he is a good fellow,’ said Cato, his lips pursed in a way that made his whole face sharp, ‘Then he would not begrudge his sacrifice for the greater good.’

Lucius scowled, unimpressed with the argument. ‘And would you go whistling to your doom for such nobility?’

Cato, who had tried to do so once or twice, pushed his cheek against Lucius’s shoulder and rubbed. ‘There, there, my Luke. The deed must be done.’

‘I know. Don’t have to like it, though.’

Get And Then… (ebook)

Paperback coming soon, as is Volume 2 in due course.

Lost and Found 8: Journey

Lost and found earringEveryone thinks Journey is a bit dizzy, a bit flaky, a bit of a hippy. (Her name doesn’t really help.) They think this almost like it’s a bad thing.

People like her, it’s true – in that abstract way that most of them like summer, or a glass of water when they feel quite thirsty, or a starlit night sky, which they only look at once in a while and think it’s pretty but then go on with whatever they were doing before they looked up into the diamond-studded infinite.

People like Journey almost like it’s a habit, and one that refreshes, but doesn’t linger for long. She seems apart from them somehow. She seems like she knows something that they don’t. She acts like she has the key to uncomplicated happiness.

Maybe that’s the problem. Maybe the people who like her are a bit jealous. They don’t know how to let go of worry. They’re never quite content with who they are and where they are; all too busy being distracted by the concern of what now? what next?

It’s not like Journey radiates an over-the-top, sing-in-the-street, look-mum-I’m-dancing joy. She just seems content with her lot, though distracted in thoughts of, not what next, but this right here right now is kind of lovely.

Journey likes natural fabrics and fresh, organic food and jewellery of pure silver that jangles when she walks. She likes the way cats purr and the vibration travels from their tiny bodies right into her hands when she strokes them and calls them sweet little kitty. She likes how bees are fuzzy and how oranges sometimes squirt you in the eye when you bite into them and the sound of horse hooves on the tarmac of the city street and the ding of the tram bell and the squeal of kids running through the fountain in front of the casino in summer.

She likes rain on her arms and wind in her dark hair. She likes the sun on her face, and that her dark brown skin doesn’t burn.

Journey likes walking everywhere. She likes stopping to smell the flowers in a very literal sense. She’s been known to stop and smell grass.

And she likes all these things in a low-key way. She’s not all manic-pixie-dreamgirl about them, despite her name and the tinkling silver jewellery. It all simply makes her calm and mindful and content.

Here’s a secret.

It’s true. Journey does know something that other people don’t know.

She knows what comes next. Came next. Will be next.

Grammar is difficult when you are living in your own past; when you’re a grain of the future stranded back in the time Before (but you are still the Yet To Be for the environment you inhabit, for the acquaintances who like you but don’t know anything about you).

Journey knows a lot about quantum physics and the machine powered by an entire sun that sent her back to gather data. Her understanding of climate change is very good too – all the survivors, rather belatedly, have a good understanding of the stupidity humanity did to itself.

The machines in Journey’s head and skeleton interact with the ones she wears on her body to send vital data through space and also time. Earrings and bracelets of silver (and many other things) make her whole body a transmitter to her lost future as they try to work out how to save the little of the world they still have. (In the meantime, the survivors have transplanted to the moon, a staging place before they take themselves to other barren landscapes further from the sun if they can’t work out how to get the drowned Earth back.)

Six years after arriving through a tunnel of improbability and bent light, the transmitter is still transmitting.

The receiver broke, though, six months after her arrival. A man wanted to take something she wasn’t interested in giving, and he grabbed her and insisted on having what he wanted.

Journey broke his arm in three places, four of his ribs, and his neck. The parts of his body were weighed down and went into the river. Journey feels a little bad about the death, but where she comes from, he and everyone around her died hundreds of years ago, so it doesn’t bother her too much.

Journey is surrounded by ghosts, in many ways. Some of these fleshly ghosts are awful, frightening things. Some are sweet or kind or funny. None of them know their fate, but Journey does, so mostly she is willing to offer the benefit of the doubt. She’ll live and let live because they’re all dead, but they don’t know it yet.

Journey didn’t realise the receiver had been snapped from her ear in the struggle until later, and then she couldn’t find the missing piece. Perhaps she could have repaired it, but she decided not to. It was so much more peaceful not to listen to the commands, the directions, the directives. To the envy and the anger and the railing against the people who appeared all so unwittingly in her transmissions, who were partly at fault for the Death of the Earth by Flood and Fire.

Journey knows that each individual couldn’t do much to stop it, and she knows that collectively, humans are a bit thick.

She has been inhabiting her past, creeping towards a future she won’t live to see again, and she likes it here.

Journey likes that she can’t go home. She likes that she’ll never hear those strident voices through the receiver again. She likes that she still sends them data – it’s a relief that it was not the transmitter that was lost – but she loves that they cannot summon her home.

Good luck to them, if they think the data will save them somehow. She’s sad for the future, of course – for what they’ve lost and what they’ll never have, living on their island of rock, gazing down at the blue ball that used to be humanity’s home.

She used to be like them, salvaging hope from the away teams that go (went, will go) to salvage scraps from the ball of water and wasteland that once housed a trillion life forms. The fraction that remain are all caged in some way. Animals and insects in the great Moon Zoo – too many slowly dying off because the gravity and the air are all wrong. Plants in greenhouses, and no-one can predict yet which will thrive and which will fail.

Not to mention the people. In their domes and in their environment suits that don’t always work. Humanity is ingenous at survival but also, it seems, at self immolation. The individual will to live is nothing like the collective lunacy that convinces people that someone else will fix it.

But here, in the past full of ghosts, Journey already knows that no-one fixed it. She already knows the limited life that awaits the survivors.

So Journey goes through her ghost life, enjoying every simple pleasure before it’s burned or drowned, and she breathes the open air and is content to just be in the moment.

After all – what could she possible do? She’s just one woman. She can’t change the future alone, and collective humanity won’t listen to her if she tries.

Because if it were possible, surely she’d have done it.

Lost and Found is an irregular series of posts about random items I find abandoned on the streets and the stories I make of them.

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, smartphone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.