an interview series with the contributor Authors of World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction
Rashmii Bell: Can you remember the first speculative fiction story you read that made you think “I have to write something like this!”?
Vanessa Gordon: The first speculative fiction or science fiction books I read were Ray Bradbury’s short stories as a matterof fact Ray Bradbury’s short stories Volume 1 was probably one of my first anthology’s that I ever read. I remember being around 12 years old and discovered his books on our bookshelf at home. The book covers intrigued me so I started his anthology then read the Martian Chronicles.
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?
VG: Toromuimui by Nora Brash is honestly one of my most favourite books of all time by one of my favourite PNG authors. This book is a treasure and is so close to my heart. I would say that the stories based on village life in Toromuimui have inspired my writing about my own village. Another favourite and a must have from Nora Brash is Poem Buai Series 1.
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?
VG: It was easy to set about imagining Papua New Guinea. It was easy because of lived experiences I loved living in the village, I had such a close relationship with my Bubu and aunties and uncles that have now passed and we spent most of our time together telling stories. We would spend hours by the fire sometimes until sunrise. My Bubu would tell me stories about spirits, legends, supernatural activities, and customary practices. I would get lost in her words and imagine a world beyond the one that we were living in. Writing my short story was easy because I would go back to fire with my Bubu.
In my story I introduce time travel and spells and curses.
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?
VG: Oooh, well I would love to read more stories about shape shifters.
In my story the unique flavour I add is travelling back in time to when it all began with a little historical twist.
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?
VG: Shuri from Black Panther! She is a boss!!!!! Straight up warrior!!! Fearless. Kurai the main character in my story is curious, strong and fearless.
RB: What’s next for you; do you have any speculative fiction or writing projects underway?
VG: I have so many ideas swimming around in my head. I’ve started other stories about spirits and legends and hopefully get to share them with the world soon.
Read Ravalian by Vanessa Gordon in World Beyond: An Anthology of Papua New Guinean Speculative Fiction, complied and edited by Kirsten McGavin.
Available for purchase below.