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Enhancement (science fiction)
What is the book about?

Enhancement is a science fiction book about changing human bodies so they can photosynthesize like plants. It’s told as a chronological series of short stories covering a period of seventy-five years, from the first discovery in a university lab, through to a time when hundreds of millions of people have been enhanced. The stories take place in locations around the world.

 
Why did I write it?

There’s a symbiotic relationship that occurs in corals that I learned about while I was studying biology at uni. I used to do a lot of snorkelling at the time and loved anything about the ocean. Some people may not be aware that corals are two creatures living together. There is the polyp part, which you usually don’t see during the day, they come out at night to feed on plankton in the water and look a bit like anemones. And then there’s the plant-like part which lives inside the tissues of the polyps.

That’s the part which gives the corals their stunning colours. But here’s the cool thing. During the day the dinoflagellates, that’s the name for the plant-like bits, these guys create energy from sunlight! It’s why you don’t get many corals living below the light zone. So, during the day the corals draw energy from the sun, and at night they get energy from eating plankton.

There are other creatures that can do this. There’s a salamander and another cool creature call a nudibranch that share a relationship with these dinoflagellates. There’s probably heaps more.

Anyway, that’s the science, and now the question – why haven’t we looked to be able to do this as well! Seriously, why haven’t we tried to change our bodies to draw energy straight from the sun?

We already enhance our bodies in so many ways. From face lifts to hearing implants to replacing bones with metal. And more recently we’ve put more thought into getting the biology right. Like probiotics in our stomach. Our bodies are already a soup of different creatures, everywhere from your skin to your guts. Why not put another life into our skin as well, like a living tattoo.

So, I took this idea and created scenarios. Ranging from the clear environmental benefits of people possibly eating less (because sunlight is giving them energy) through to what governments might think about this (mandating that everyone was to get the enhancement). Bit like recent vaccinations for Covid. That’s what Enhancement is all about.

What motivated me to write it

I’m passionate about science and I’m attracted to the natural world. Easy as that! I like to know how things work, what works well, what could be done better. I think modifying our bodies is only going to continue. Making us able to get our energy direct from the sun and so eat a lot less animals and plants, sounded like a cool theme and one that I could have some fun with.

Key messages from the book

We should be trying to do this. Simple as that. With increasing pressure to feed everyone in the world, we need to make ourselves, our bodies, more capable of looking after themselves. But, like most innovations’ humankind makes, there may be unforeseen consequences. If you want to find out what they may be; you’ll have to read Enhancement!

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Gold (contemporary fiction)

 

What is the book about?

Gold is a contemporary fiction novel about a couple of guys in the 1990’s planning to pinch a stack of gold from their employer. Now, not every workplace has gold bars just sitting around the office, but in this case, they work for a mining company in the Australian outback. Because of the remoteness, the security is really lax, so they figure there’s a good chance they’ll get away with it.

 

Why did I write it?

Gold was actually my first attempt at writing a book but ended up being the second one to be published. I’d wanted to write a book since my twenties and somehow never got around to it. I also lacked the confidence to go that step further and have it published. So nothing happened for a long time. Then my partner encouraged me to try a short story competition, as a way of edging into writing for an audience other than myself. So, the weekend before the 2019 Newcastle Short Story Award comp closed, I sent in a tale with a twist. And I was lucky enough to have it make the grade and ended up in the anthology that year! This gave me the confidence to pick up the novel again. I’ve since learned that writing a novel is a totally different beast to writing short stories. In many ways I find it a lot harder. The upside is you can develop your characters far more. The reader can really get to feel for them. Or as may be the case with Gold, begin to dislike or even pity them! Depends on whether you like rascals, or not.

What motivated me to write it

Gold was originally going to be a political novel. The theme was centered on the ownership of property, which in this case, was the ownership was mineral rights. And I hung onto that attitude for a long time. Then life got in the way, and I stopped writing for a few years. When I started up again, it wasn’t on Gold but instead Enhancement, because I found short stories more attractive at the time. When I got back to Gold, I realised the political theme was far too heavy. The prose was long and laboured, and I figured the reader would either get irritated, or simply drop it before anything interesting happened. Also, the characters were hidden behind the enormous soapbox I’d put in the way. And if I was going to do a political novel properly, I’d have to pull up my socks and do some research rather than simply spout my half-baked views. So, I toned down the righteous, questioning side, and turned it into a crime novel with some flawed characters.

I’m glad I did because it was a lot more fun to write. The main character retains similar views about mineral rights ownership, but he’s twisted it into something self-centred. He likes the idea of everything for everyone, so long as he gets to have his pile first.

Key messages from the book

In the end, I didn’t write Gold to send strong messages to the reader. Originally, that was very much the intention. Now, it’s a tale about misguided desires, greed, and unforeseen betrayal.

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Tapestries (fantasy)
What is the book about?

Tapestries is a collection of fantasy short stories based on historical events or people. They span from the legendary Siege of Troy through to the Russian-Afghan war.

Why did I write it?

I’ll be upfront; I wrote Tapestries purely for the fun of it. I went looking for unaccounted events, or unusual historical characters and created tales to explain what really happened to them, with a little magic thrown in for good measure. I also wanted to cover a range of people over time, which is shy I wrote a series of short stories rather than one long convoluted tale. By using settings over 2,000 years and across a range of places around the world, I got to colour each a little differently. That too was a lot of fun.

What motivated me to write it

Like my science-fiction short stories, where the science plays only a small part in the background, I wanted to see if I could write a series of fantasy short stories where the fantasy aspect was subtle. The tales, to a degree, are imaginary snapshots in the life of these characters where I’ve inserted something mystical on top.

I’m attracted to historical figures or events. Larger than life names such as Joan of Arc, Genghis Khan, and Ivar the Boneless, to name only a few in the book. The passage of time has made these figures apocryphal, so I could add whatever details or change interpretations without making the story unbelievable. We don’t really know why the 10th century Viking raider Ivar Ragnasson was called boneless, or why Joan heard voices that no-one else could.

I thought it might be fun to place a little magic around these famous people, and maybe settle the questions once and for all. For example, if you read Tapestries, you’ll get to find out the final resting place of Genghis Khan. Because the history books won’t say.

Writing tales about events and people far in the past can easily come across as anachronistic. This added another layer of enjoyment for me while writing the stories. I wanted to tell the tale through the eyes of a reader at the time, and not one living in the twenty-first century. The result being the narrative voice changes somewhat with every story.

Key messages from the book

Tapestries is a work of fantasy in the real sense of the term. It’s got enchanted weavings that act as portals through which people, objects, or even voices, can travel in real time. So, there’s no backwards or forwards time dilation going on, the tapestries are simply a way to get from one spot to another instantaneously. This means there are no deep messages in any of them.

Instead, I hope the reader will enjoy the twists I’ve woven into these legends. After all, I think most of us would like to imagine there’s some magic in the world.

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Silver (contemporary fiction) - release 2023
What is the book about?

Silver is the sequel to Gold. And yes, it is part of a trilogy, so, you guessed it, the last in the series is called Bronze. Silver picks up where Gold finished, meaning there’s no gap in time. Not everything worked out as planned for the main character in Gold, and he comes up with a more devious way to make his fortune. This time not by physical theft, as was the case for Gold, instead in Silver it’s through mining finance manipulation.

Why did I write it?

I intentionally left the ending of Gold open. Much of the main character’s issues remained unresolved, and I saw an opportunity to keep the mining industry theme, while moving the stage from the outback to the city. There’s a whole other side to the world of mining that many don’t think about. For someone unfamiliar with mining they may only imagine the hole in the ground, or the resource that comes from it, such as copper or iron. Yet, behind the scenes there is the world of finance and stock markets, mining leases and prospecting. With all the risks and excitement associated. I wanted to take the reader into another part of the sector, where it’s often much easier and more common for crime to occur.

What motivated me to write it

My dad and both of my grandfathers had been stockbrokers, so I had some idea how the stock market worked. At one time, while working in the mining sector, I even thought about moving across into finance. In hindsight, I’m not sure I would have liked it.

Something that surprised me when I started to look into the financial side was the discrepancy between the value of a mineral deposit and the value placed on the company that owns the resource. It came as a shock to a naïve scientist like me that the two are not always the same. The calculated value of, let’s say, a gold deposit may be a billion dollars. However, the ‘market value’ may be substantially less. What I was missing was the financial and human factors of the company that owned that gold. I wanted to show this contradiction in Silver. The main character plays on the fact that if he tells a good enough story, the value of a stock can be changed on emotions, rather than measurements.

Key messages from the book

Crime often pays. If it didn’t then so much of it wouldn’t take place. But whether it pays, or not, it always comes at some cost. And that costs doesn’t always need to be a criminal record or time in gaol.