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.
‘To Look Upon a Dream Tiger’ by Shauna O’Meara is about obsession and the delusion that one moment of luck will fix years of mistakes. Shauna also did the magnificent artwork for The Never Never Land, including front and back covers and the book’s glorious centrepiece. (Not to mention this sweet illustration of her own story!)
Tell us a bit about yourself
I am a veterinarian, artist and speculative fiction writer whose stories and reading habits tend toward near-future science fiction involving climate change, overpopulation and consumerism and their impacts upon the natural world, vulnerable peoples and world order. I also love stories and graphic novels that explore artificial intelligence, bio-engineering and the many aspects, good and bad, of our obsession with social media and personal branding.
What was the inspiration behind your The Never Never Land story?
‘To Look Upon a Dream Tiger’ was the product of a long-term fascination with cryptozoology: the search for mythical and/or folkloric animals like the sasquatch, Loch Ness monster and chupacabra as well as extinct and/or prehistoric animals like the dodo, thylacine and many species of dinosaur. In particular, I was interested in the people who not only believe such creatures exist, but dedicate significant time, money, reputation and energy into pursuing them.
My old hometown in rural Western Australia has long been a place of big-cat sightings. According to local legend, a circus either went broke or suffered enclosure failure resulting in a number of very large cats (leopards, lions and panthers) being released into the Australian bush, where they not only survived, undetected by people, but interbred. “Apparently,” these animals are very secretive, only coming out at night to kill large livestock and leave tantalisingly big paw-prints. “Successful” attempts to film or photograph them have generally resulted in poorly-focused or motion-blurred images, or pictures of cat-like animals set against a backdrop of bush: impossible to scale.
The blurred-image factor which seems to plague so many of the “unconfirmed sightings” prevalent in the field of cryptozoology was the basis for my story. My premise hinged on the question: What if it wasn’t just bad photography creating those imaging artefacts?
I chose the Tasmanian Tiger (thylacine) as the focus for my story because it is a recently extinct animal that many people still search for, believing it to be present in remote pockets of the state. It is also a creature that some believe should remain secret and unpublicised if ever it is rediscovered, that it may remain protected from harassment and trophy collectors. The other reason I chose this species is because it allowed me to write about the Lake St Clair district of Tasmania, some of the most remote and beautiful wilderness on Earth.
Why did you submit to the TNNL anthology?
I submitted to The Never Never Land anthology for several reasons:
The first was that the anthology was being produced by CSFG Publishing. CSFG has had a strong and consistent track record of producing high-quality speculative fiction anthologies; some of their short stories have even gone on to make the various Years Best lists and Ditmar and/or Aurealis Award shortlists (‘The Nexus Tree’ by Kimberley Gaal which appears in The Never Never Land was recently nominated for an Aurealis Award).
They also use a blind submission process, which I personally prefer because it means that the writing, rather than the name of the author, becomes the main consideration in story selection. With new voices able to be counted equally among the more well-known, the result has been that quite a few people have been able to get their start by making their first short story sale to a CSFG anthology.
I also decided to submit because the editors – Ian McHugh, Mitchell Akhurst and Phillip Berrie – were all people I had attended various critiquing circles with in the past. Having seen the high level of scrutiny they brought to bear during the critiquing process, I felt they would bring sound judgement to the project and choose good stories. I also thought that they would be sufficiently harsh on my work during the editing process that I might end up with an even better story.
The last reason I submitted was because I liked the theme of the anthology and was able to come up with a story that I thought was worth telling. For me, each tale has to have a thread of social commentary at its core. It isn’t that I don’t derive joy from a straight-forward story meant to be taken at face value – I very much do – but all the works by other writers that I have found to be the most powerful have been those which made me think twice about the world I thought I knew and this is something I am working hard to cultivate in my own writing craft.
What did you learn about the writing/publication/editing process from your experience in being involved in the The Never Never Land?
I learned once again that no work should ever go to submission without first running the gauntlet of beta readers whose opinions and eye-for-detail you trust. ‘To Look Upon a Dream Tiger’ went through the CSFG critiquing group and was greatly improved by the suggestions I got from that process.
What are you working on now?
Currently, I am trying to write a near-future climate change story for an anthology I was invited to submit to. I say “trying” because I have also thought of an awesome parasite space opera which keeps popping into my head every time I sit down to mull over rising sea levels and soil salinity. :P
Where to next?
My plan right now is to complete the climate change story, finish the parasite space opera, finish an art commission due in September and then focus on The Novel (capital letters intentional). I have a few short stories coming out this year and am looking forward to sharing them with everyone.