an interview series with the contributor Authors of World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction.
We are just days away from Publication Day (4 May 2022) for the much anticipated, and milestone book project, World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, compiled and edited by Dr Kirsten McGavin.
It is a time of extreme excitement as not only does the Anthology stand as our label's venture into publishing speculative fiction by Papua New Guinean writers, but also as a project delivered under an initiative created by Hibiscus Three, to encourage Papua New Guineans to create and lead book projects, in collaboration other Papua New Guinean writers. And sit is only apt that in introducing Blog readers and the incredible Hibiscus Three community to the contributor Authors of World Beyond ,our Founder and Social Entrepreneur, Rashmii Bell, shares her recent Q&A interviews with each Author.
Rashmii Bell: Can you remember the first speculative fiction story you read that made you think “I have to write something like this!”?
Augustine Minimbi: Before writing for this anthology, I never read any speculative fiction. I only really read serial novels, gutter novels, mostly novels and stories relating to or written by Third World authors or topics. So basically, I did not have any grounding in this genre specifically. Also, my prior writings were journalistic pieces, with a bit of poetry for therapeutic purposes, and some raps as well. I basically was frog-sticking without a light in this genre, and my saving grace was my knowledge of PNG history, and specifically PNG mining history. “Tomait, Meet Malipu” basically tested my knowledge of history as this chapter of PNG history is often either forgotten or an afterthought, despite its ramifications for mining in PNG post-Panguna.
RB: World Beyond’s callout for submissions centred on promoting our (Papua New Guinean) stories alongside and within emerging literary traditions/movements such as Black and Pacific futurism. Are there specific authors or books, especially from PNG, from which you’ve drawn inspiration to write in this genre?
AM: Specifically, the likes of Vincent Serei Eri, Russell Soaba, Stanlake Samkange and Shimmer Chinodya came to mind, as far as the themes of black history, black society and colonial and post-colonial development come to mind. Their works; The Crocodile, Scattered by the Wind, On Trial for My Country, and Harvest of Thorns really shaped my paradigms of fiction when setting out to write “Tomait, Meet Malipu”. These works did so in a way which combined the themes of exploitation, corporate greed, capitalist hubris and indigenous culture and aspirations for a better future, as well as the lure of the material wealth of Western society and values. Ngugi wa Thiong’o’s The River Between and his drama Ngaahika Ndaaenda also inspired me to factor in the themes of Western manipulation through financial and religious intrigue.
RB: Speculative fiction gives you the ability to create worlds not found in our current reality. How did you set about imagining ‘Papua New Guinea’ as presented in your story, and what is the ‘speculative’ element that readers are introduced to?
AM: I imagined Papua New Guinea based on my own little knowledge of the 80s, being a turbulent time filled with resurgence of tribal warfare, electoral raucous and overall being a less expensive time to live in. I made sure to open the reader’s eyes to this during Tomait’s foray into Mount Hagen circa 1988/89. In fact, this is the biggest speculative feature in the story: the time travel, the shapeshifting between aeons, between the despondency of Tomait’s present and the uncertainty and conflict of PNG’s independent, post-colonial past, and his attempt to reconcile and resolve the two. I endeavoured to produce this in a way that the reader would be spellbound and not be able to break free until the last punctuation.
RB: Zombies, vampires and superheroes are amongst the mainstream themes of speculative fiction. What authentic Papua New Guinean (or Melanesian) element does your story offer to the reader? Are there any others that you would like to see more Papua New Guinean writers experiment with?
AM: The unique trend I managed to bring out was the unique PNG experience. In fact, in “Tomait, Meet Malipu”, I created two PNG experiences, three even. The first one was the PNG as it is now: fraught with difficulty and corruption and neoliberal dystopia. The second was a revisit to 1980s PNG with all the problems and events associated with the accompanying cheaper prices and higher standard of living. The final was the future envisioned by Malipu: a country that truly benefited from the resources that it housed, benefits that reached the grassroots and ensured they thrived in their lives. In a nutshell, the really unique trend is the shapeshifting and time-travelling, not only between eras, but also between alternate paradigms and approaches to development.
( image below courtesy of Dr Kirsten McGavin)
RB: Having been lucky enough to have read World Beyond, I found the story telling to convey a series of questions and social issues that are unfolding in contemporary PNG society. What are your thoughts on your story addressing a specific issue, and what of its inclusion in World Beyond giving the reader an opportunity to think of the issues outside the norm?
AM: “Tomait, Meet Malipu” has incorporated many themes such as corporate greed, capitalist exploitation and others; but if one theme hasn’t been mentioned yet in this interview which this story addresses, it would be the dearth of historical record and knowledge amongst Papua New Guineans. Many people do not know the story of Malipu Balakau, or what he tried to do regarding mining laws. The story of the Bougainville Crisis also happened within that time, and its protracted nature meant that it stuck more solidly in the minds and hearts of Papua New Guineans than Balakau’s assasination, which whizzed in and out of the minds of the ordinary public. Even the question of who killed him still remains unsolved. It is not even written in our history books, save for a few lines here and there. As earlier said, I was tested by this story because I could only find the accounts of what happened in old newspapers and from a blog run by an ex-kiap. So I believe that this story would not only set the ball rolling as to finding who wanted Malipu gone, but also his contributions towards Enga Province, Indigenous land and property rights, and mining law and royalties negotiation in PNG.
RB: What’s next for you; do you have any other speculative fiction writing projects underway?
AM: I’m thinking of setting up a blog that delves into working class history in Melanesia and using it to develop class consciousness within Melanesia, especially with the current inflation and cost of living crisis that is gripping the Pacific and the World. Also, I’m thinking of continuing my journalistic and fiction work, delving into other genres as well. I’m going to try all of this whilst trying to finish up my Bachelor of Commerce degree at the University of the South Pacific.
Read Tomait, Meet Malipu by Augustine Minimbi in World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, complied and edited by Kirsten McGavin.
Available for purchase below.