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Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Jen White and Myths and Legends Old and New

Today’s post is by Jen White, whose story Wetlands is set firmly in Australia, in the far north. Her love for this land, which is so very old, and her knowledge of it, come across in her tale. We can only hope that if something happened as it does in this story, the humans would, as they do here, let it get on with happening.

I’d like to add that I am so very jealous of Jen for having had the kind of job that would allow you to go to work in a tinny, in that environment. Lucky Jen!

Thanks, Sue, for asking me to guest post on your blog, along with the rest of the Mythic Resonance writers.

I’ve always been intrigued by myth and legends. Oh, I don’t think I’m alone in this. After all, myths and legends are supposed to intrigue us, draw us in, tell us about ourselves in ways that we are barely conscious of.  They are deep oceans populated by terrifying and yet strangely familiar creatures. You can read a myth, a legend, again and again and never reach the bottom of it. They are never-failing sources of inspiration.

And yet, I have been moving away from reading myths from other cultures. Yes, of course, they are universal. They tell us about the human condition. But for some time now I have been more and more interested in exploring the emerging Australian stories and themes that may be morphing into myth, the visions, the narratives, the memories that haunt our continent, like lost kids, extinct animals, intelligent marsupials, old mining towns, the stories that resonate with us for reasons we don’t fully understand. And this is what I have tried to explore in Wetlands, my story in Mythic Resonance.

I lived and worked in the Territory for a dozen years and the environment made a strong impression on me. It is like nowhere else in Australia. Everywhere you look, there is life and movement: skinks, snakes, rough and dusty cockies in gangs, geckoes fighting each other overhead. I remember going to work one Kakadu morning in a small tinny, zooming down the river past the waterlilies and peace all around, but acutely conscious also of what lay beneath. Only weeks before I’d done a cruise on the same river and had been entertained by huge crocs leaping out of the water and crashing back down again.

I’ve moved down south since but the north still appears now and then in my writing. Wetlands is set in the surrounds of a uranium mine. How does such a mine affect the flora and fauna in such a vulnerable ecosystem? I asked. And what could the consequences be? It is a story I had been wanting to write for some time, and when Specusphere announced their intention to publish an anthology I thought the idea could be a good fit. As the story evolved it became a comment on cultural imperialism and cultural appropriation. Which makes sense considering our history, don’t you think?

Jen White is an Australian writer of speculative fiction.  Her work has been published in various magazines and anthologies nationally and internationally. Most recently her stories have appeared in the anthologies Dead Red Heart, Bewere the Night and Future Lovecraft. Her story Damn Kids can be found online here:

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