an interview series with the contributor Authors of World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction
(Image: as seen on Jeremy Hau'ofa Mogi's blog: takemyshorts.wordpress.com )
As we head into weekend, we wrap up our Meet the Writer of World Beyond PNG Interview Series with the last of our interviews. Contributor author, Jeremy Hau'ofa Mogi, shares inspiration and process for writing Pale Moon Shadow.
Rashmii Bell: Can you remember the first speculative fiction story you read that made you think “ I have to write something like this!”? Jeremy Hau'ofa Mogi: Since childhood, I've always been fascinated with science fiction and fantasy, having watched Star Wars, and Dune in cinema in the 80s, I'd always wondered what life would be like in another realm. Perhaps the first literary encounter I'd had, would have to be Roald Dahl's BFG and Orwell's Animal Farm. 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? JM: From within PNG, NO. many of the books written by authors then had focussed on the post colonial era, none were fantasy. The nearest to that would have to be Vincent Eri's The Crocodile. 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? JM: Well, parts of my story were taken straight from my own people's traditional stories such as Lelewaga and Sinemkalawata , then of course there were the old wives tales of children being kidnapped by unseen forces, so the imaginative context already had a template from which to draw from. My speculation focused on the unseen forces of nature (or which we may consider supernatural), but throughout our beliefs systems here up till the advent of Christianity, there has always been that belief that we are influenced by forces greater than human. RB: Zombies, vampires and superheroes are amongst the mainstream themes of speculative fiction. What authentic Papua New Guinean (or Melanesian) element/ flavour does your story offer to the reader? Are there any others that you would like to see more Papua New Guinean writers experiment with? JM: Stories of Vampirism and the reanimated dead have offered themselves as a countermeasure to physical discipline of children, it was easier to scare a child into behaving with tales of Koboni and masalai, what would make our stories different, is the cultural context in which we use these characters. Western literature I'd assume looks at the handsome devil, ours doesn't, although tales of mermaids and fish people abound from my seafaring province.In terms of experimentation of fictional people, it may have to be on our mythological animals. The Greeks had their pantheon, as a united people, for us, it wouldn't necessarily have to be a man, but a creature endowed with the gift of giving, say wealth, or charm or protection. RB: In your view, who is the greatest science fiction or fantasy hero (or villain), and will readers get to see elements/ any of their traits through characters in your story?
JM: Dune- Leto II, who becomes God emperor. There was a character that I had based on. A child, who physically would never grow, but who's mind far surpassed that of his peers. 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(s), and how will its inclusion in World Beyond give the reader an opportunity to think of the issues outside the norm ? JM: Much of what I write about focuses on the complexity of human emotion and relationships. My story looks at that but from a simple village setting, where the people have very little external influence on their society, and so therefore have a set belief system that governs their day to day life. In reality now, our cultural identity is being diluted, what with intermarriage and migration, there are far less "ethnics" than ever before, with many of us carrying the family name, but having almost no ties to "home". My story seeks to reiterate the importance of having those traditional ties, and how our land is very much part and parcel of our identity as a people. RB: What’s next for you; do you have any speculative fiction or writing projects underway?
JM: I do have a number of projects actually. One of the first shorts I'd written is called The Necklace. I've got the opportunity to expand on it, then there is a draft manuscript from 2012 that I hope will make it out to the public arena in the coming years. It talks about politics and the what-ifs of post independent PNG.
Read Pale Moon Shadow by Jeremy Hau'ofa Mogi in World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, complied and edited by Kirsten McGavin.
Available for purchase below.