an interview series with the contributor Authors of World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction.
Learning of a mutual fascination for fantasy title-character, Maleficient, and enthusiasm for the Hibiscus Three Novel 2023 Award had imprint Founder, Rashmii Bell, quite delighted when interviewing contributing Author, Martha Schulze.
Rashmii Bell: Can you remember the first speculative fiction story you read that made you think “I have to write something like this!”? Martha Schulze: I read J.R.R Tolkien’s The Hobbit and Lord of the Rings as well C.S Lewis’ The Chronicles of Narnia series in fourth grade. I was fascinated with how both authors weaved timeless stories that not only captured my imagination, but also challenged my moral compass. I have been captivated with the genre ever since. 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? MS: The inspiration for this story was drawn from an event in my own life. The voice that has the most impact in each of our lives is our own. In the writing of this story, I was in a way speaking to and reminding myself that good will always triumph over evil and that forgiveness, compassion and love are the most powerful forces in the universe. 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? MS: I simply borrowed our beautiful tropical Niugini Islands and added magic. As PNG people we are very much connected to our land. Mum recently told me a story of how our land “recognises” clan chiefs. I loved this idea and drew on it when connecting Johanna to the land of her birth. The speculative element would be the manipulation of magic aspect, however, that is not an entirely new concept here in PNG as much of our culture is steeped in the belief in and use of magic - be it black or white. 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? MS: The matriarchal rules of succession and the traditional Kustom wok at the funeral (borrowed from my New Ireland heritage). The various guardians of the sea, land and air (borrowed from my current home in Kimbe).
(image courtesy of Dr Kirsten McGavin) 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?
MS: I have a bit of a fascination with Angelina Jolie’s portrayal of Maleficent. I drew on her at her darkest for Nerium. 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), an how will its inclusion in World Beyond give the reader an opportunity to think of the issues outside the norm? MS: The politics surrounding clan successions and land inheritance in PNG. There is so much jealousy and fighting involved in traditional land disputes that it more often than not ends up in families torn apart and sometimes killed. This should not be “normal”, it should not be “the PNG way”. As a people we should be helping and supporting each other, not spending our time tearing each other apart for a chance to be a “big man”. Is the prestige really worth the price? RB: What’s next for you; do you have any speculative fiction or writing projects underway? MS: I am currently working on my submission (manuscript) for the Hibiscus Three Novel 2023 Award.
Read A Dance of Stars and Shadows by Martha Schulze in World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, complied and edited by Kirsten McGavin.
Available for purchase below.