I am currently in Sydney, after a whirlwind visits to both Brisbane and Melbourne. As some readers might know I attended the Brisbane Writers Festival as a guest on several panels – most of which came under the bracket of ‘female writers of erotica or sexy historical fiction’. Quiver, my first book and first collection of ‘erotic’ short stories was published over ten years ago in Australia, and sold extremely well and in some ways it continues to both haunt and define me in this particular market. Not that some of the historical fiction isn’t a little raunchy, but frankly often I feel, with many other more literary and historical fiction writers now crashing through the bedroom wall, the times have just caught up with me. Writers I find are usually prickly singular creatures, they are not collective creatures and it’s always interesting watching and eavesdropping on the various groupings that form themselves in the Green room of such events.
Brisbane itself is now very much of the 22nd Century – the C.B.D (although small) has fantastic and quite futuristic development, all located on and around the banks of the broad brown-green river. It was late winter, early Spring and the evening I was leaving was the start of the Riverfire festival –one of the biggest night of the year there – which began with a military flyby. It was balmy, the air blood-temperature, the atmosphere a wonderful combination of laid-back Australian with a slight rural big-town ambience married with state of the art development and energetic youth. I watch dozens of young families; the men in shorts and tee shirts pushing strollers, the women in brightly patterned cotton dress stroll toward the banks of the river to watch the flyby and fireworks. For a moment I was reminded of those late 1960’s illustrations of cities of the future – relaxed, casually dressed young people strolling around a Jetson’s like cityscape – non-violent user-friendly utopia. Some projection on my behalf but it is extraordinary to think how this city has evolved since the very repressive days of the ‘liberal’ (think Tory/Republican) Premier Joh Bijelke-Peterson state government. (The Aussies will know what I mean). It is a very young and very can-do city – and, to my eyes, seemed to lack the cultural cynicism of some of the larger cities I know.
There was an interesting set of statistics in last week’s issue of the New Scientist’ – contained within an article about population growth. Apparently in the last day that the world population ended less in the evening than in the morning was the 26th of December the tsunami of 2004 with 250,000 dying in that tragedy and another 160,000 dying of natural causes (total 410,00) – that days total births was 370,000. The last huge disaster that killed more people then was born was the Tangshan earthquake in 1976 but the biggest impact on population growth in the 20th century was not the 2nd or 1st World Wars (I would have most certainly assumed this) but the flu pandemic of 1918-1920, which killed 50 million people roughly. An extraordinary fact, the journalist (Alison George) equates this massive fatality with the impact on population caused by the Black Death, the plague years of the 14th century which transformed huge swathes of populated Europe into empty wasteland – somehow reminiscent of the landscape in Cormack McCarthy’s The Road. Paradoxically it got me thinking about the absurdities of re-incarnation and how, mathematically, there would be an awful lot of new souls being born to justify the figures. More optimistically they have calculated the world’s population will start decreasing after 2050.
Work-wise I have embarked on a series of new projects post the epic process of writing Sphinx. I’ve noticed there’s always this beat of introspection/depression after finishing a big book. Usually a great time to allow the unconscious to begin the fermentation of new ideas/storylines/images – whatever fires the imagination. I’ve also noticed how for me (and I suspect other writers) books are like relationships – when you involved you’re deeply committed and myopic and in love, but once they leave you, you go through a process of initially hating them, then indifference, then a couple of years later you start to recognise what it was that made you fall in love in the first place.