The ebook launch of The Never Never Land, CSFG’s speculative anthology of
Australian myths, yarns and campfire stories, is coming on 1 July 2016.
We interviewed some of the authors to hear what inspired
their unique version of the sunburnt country.
‘Beyond the Factory Wall’ by Rivqa Rafael is about Jewish magic and steampunk inventions in a women’s penal colony.
Tell us a bit about yourself.
I used to say I’m an editor and writer, but these days I’m putting writer first (imposter syndrome, I’ll beat you yet). Mostly I write science fiction, but every so often I stray into fantasy, as I’ve done in ‘Beyond the Factory Wall’, which is steampunk with magic. When I’m not writing fiction or editing science books and papers, I’m likely reading, video gaming, working on my Brazilian jiujitsu skills, or kid wrangling (my partner and I have two, who we’re raising to be as geeky as we are). I am overly fond of parentheses.
What was the inspiration behind your The Never Never Land story?
It diverged a long way from the original inspiration, the real-life story of Jane Hawkins, a midwife who was accused of witchcraft and exiled from her Puritan American colony for assisting the birth of a severely deformed stillborn. When I heard a talk about the abuse that women suffered in jails in colonial Australia, the ideas merged and evolved into the story as it’s published. I mixed in the Jewish elements to create an alternate history that meshed the two concepts in a way that made sense (at least to me).
What research did you do for the story?
After those sparks of inspiration, I did a lot of research online before visiting the Cascades Female Factory in Hobart. As well as taking a tour of the historic site, I was there for a dramatised tour with brilliantly convincing actors, who really drove home the injustices that these women were subject to. Much of the detail in the story was drawn from the scribbled notes I took at the Factory. I followed that up with a couple of books bought from the site’s shop, which were also invaluable.
Was there anything you found hard about writing this story?
The subject material was difficult. Female convicts and prisoners were abused by wardens and free settlers, and had their babies taken away from them regardless of their wishes. And the idea of a midwife being accused of witchcraft for delivering a deformed baby was deeply unsettling. Anything with stolen or dead children pains me. An earlier draft featured a stillbirth scene that was agonising to write. It was even harder to edit out, but it just didn’t fit with the final story.
Why did you decide to submit to the TNNL anthology?
I wrote the story for the anthology – the ideas were brewing in my mind at exactly the right time, so it was an obvious choice.
What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in The Never Never Land?
So, so much. Although I’m an editor, I don’t edit fiction, and being edited at all was a relatively new experience for me. Ian McHugh edited my story, and we went through several rounds of editing in which he challenged me to streamline and flesh out (yes, both, simultaneously!) the story. It’s immeasurably better than it was when I submitted it.
What was your favourite other story in TNNL?
Of all the questions, this is the hardest! At a pinch I’d say Kim Gaal’s ‘The Nexus Tree’, which is hilarious, pitch-perfect Aussie gloriousness.
What are you working on now?
I’m working on various short stories while I gird my loins to start redrafting my science fiction novel.
Where do you want to take your writing? What are your writing goals?
The usual: world domination, of course. It’s required for CSFG membership.
Where can we find you?
My occasionally updated blog is at www.rivqa.net, but I’m most active on Twitter as @enoughsnark.