The Sahara arrives in Fuerteventura

A Calima hits the Canary Islands

The Calima: I knew it would happen if I stayed here long enough. Maybe that is why I choose to be here for a whole month. I wanted to test how I would handle it.

Periodically, the Canary Islands get choked in Saharan dust that wafts over the ocean from Morocco. Hot dry winds tend to come with it, although today there is a temperature inversion, the dust acting as a shield from the sun. There is little wind at present. And the dust is thick, although not so thick as to blacken the sky. I watched the calima approach from the east this morning. In a few hours it had smothered the island. This is one of the worst I have experienced. You can feel it in your mouth. Can I endure it? Yes, but only by staying inside and closing the windows. It doesn’t sting the nose like bushfire smoke. But it isn’t healthy. Traditionally, I guess  this is why those living in desert climes wear scarves over their faces. I would do the same, living here on days like this.

I knew the calima was coming as I have taken to watching Canarian news in an effort to drench myself in Spanish.

About mid-morning, I decided I had to go out, even though I didn’t feel like it. After depositing my recycling in the communal bin on the corner of my street, I wandered back towards the park I can see from my apartment. I found Calle Lanzarote and thought it was quite lovely, even though the photo does not reveal its charm. You can see the haze making the sky dull.

Escaping into a Bookstore

Determined to explore more of the city – I have an awful habit of finding preferred routes and sticking to them, a habit I am determined to break – I stumbled on the island’s main bookstore, Tagaror. Downstairs was filled with children’s books and all sorts of items for school. Stairs led to another floor but there was no sign and I wasn’t that sure if it was private. I was about to leave when I summoned the courage to ask and was directed up to the main bookstore. I entered a large room that Oxford itself would be proud of, one half given over to fiction. I went to the non-fiction section and browsed the shelves. There was an Esoteric section, appropriately named for what it is, and not New Age or some other euphemism.

No Alice Bailey, the subject of my doctorate and mother of the New Age movement.

I did find probably the only book written in the English language in the store.

I felt embarrassed paying for it, especially when the assistant spoke to me in English. I have become awfully shy speaking Spanish. I need to take a bold pill. When I do summon the courage, the response is very positive, especially when I announce I am Australian.

While in the bookstore I made an important assessment. Tagoror is a bookstore for the local Spanish-speaking population. The two tables containing books of the Canary Islands featured two fiction authors, one who lives in Lanzarote and another who used to live in Fuerteventura and is now based in Gran Canaria. I doubt either sell many copies, but what was obvious was my books, written in English, would have no place there in that bookstore. Few English browsers would venture up the stairs. If my books were translated into Spanish and published locally then they might stand a chance of doing okay, but only if I lived here. And even then, I would have to find a way of gaining acceptance as a British-Australian, when culturally, the islands will rightly champion their own. I would have to navigate the terrain of cultural appropriation, not in the content of my fiction, but in my very presence as a non-Canarian author on the island. It seems an awful lot of effort to sell a few books. But is that what my role here, if I had a role here, would really be about?

Understanding Fuerteventura

My stay in Puerto del Rosario, as distinct from any of the many tourist towns on the island, has left me in no doubt that there are two Fuerteventuras. One comprises the tourism and the migrants (perhaps including the Spanish from the mainland), the other is made up of the local population, those born in the Canary Islands, and they live a life as much as possible entirely separate from the tourism they can scarcely avoid. It is as though, in Puerto del Rosario, through their determination not to cater for tourists, especially in the way they fashion their shops and cafes for themselves, they are making it clear they do not want to invite in outsiders. It’s a silent statement and it is very obvious. They don’t want to make it all that easy, not because they are hostile, but rather because they are holding on to their own cultural identity. And if Tagoror is anything to go by, there is a large educated reading public in this town, which serves to strengthen cultural identity and pride.

Of course, these are only my observations and speculations. I am going on brief impressions. But I am observant. And I am trying to imagine myself living here. How would I fit in?

Australia shares with the Canary Islands a love affair with all things local and as an author, I have come up against this many times. Local sells, because people love to read about their own place and tourists love to read about places they’ve visited. Hence travel fiction. Local also sells in cultures that feel invaded or vulnerable in some way, which applies to both the Canary Islands and Australia.

My problem is the only place that inspires me to write over and again is this island Fuerteventura, and it feels weird continuing in this vein when I live in Australia. I am caught on the horns of a dilemma. Should I relocate? I have been considering the possibility for three years. I only have a few months to make up my mind thanks to Brexit.

Alas my walk about town was curtailed by the thickening dust. I can still feel it in my mouth writing this. Normally, you can see the ocean in the first photo below.

Making a life-changing choice is never easy. Right now, my mind is as dusty as the horizon.

Incidentally, while in Tagoror I browsed a glossy hardback explaining how climate change would affect the Canary Islands. From what I could gather examining the various charts, the average temperatures here should remain reasonably stable. But the prevailing wind is shifting to the east and bringing with it more calima days, more days of Saharan dust.

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You can read my other blog posts of my February 2020 Fuerteventura holiday here https://isobelblackthorn.com/fuerteventura-travel-diary/

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of two novels set in FuerteventuraClarissa’s Warning and A Prison in the Sun.

Responding to the Fires

It is now three weeks after a devastating bushfire tore through my old home town Cobargo, part of a fire apocalypse that has razed an area of Australia about the size of England. Fires in various locations in Australia are still burning. The fire season is far from over. Used to be called summer. These fires have come off the back of the hottest decade on record on Earth and the second-hottest year ever recorded. In terms of scale and intensity, and duration and frequency, these fires are unprecedented and primarily caused by the insane heat and the relentless drought and the kiln-dry winds.

In the last three weeks I have read countless articles on climate change, on the politics of climate change, and on Australia’s do-nothing while pretending to do something government skirting the climate change emergency. And I have hoped. I have hoped not for a transformation in Australian politics since both major parties are actively pro-coal. But I’ve hoped that the fires would catalyse radical change elsewhere. That governments faced up to their responsibilities. That the citizenry of those countries became roused into action and demanded that those responsibilities will be met. That people everywhere re-assess, and particularly those with large footprints. (In order not to appear a hypocrite, I checked out my own footprint and breathed a sigh of relief when I found it only takes one planet to support me. Only. I could do better and will endeavour to do so. Meanwhile I will carry on with a clear enough conscience helping to raise awareness.)

I had to hope in this fashion. I had no choice. Despite the groundswell of aware and switched on people in Australia, despite an enormous number of folk doing something to make a difference, we are hampered by the great weight of retrograde action and policy from on high. The only way this country’s government will change its shameful attitude is if it is shamed into doing so by other nations.

Therefore, it was heartening to hear that Greta Thunberg has vied for dominance with Donald Trump at the World Economic Forum in Davos. That she has a new weapon in her armoury; she can refer to the Australian fires. That she is far from alone in being a young climate activist and many others are gaining attention and taking to the world stage. Young people have plenty of energy and plenty to fight for. I stand in solidarity.

And today, when I read the newly elected Spanish government has stepped up to the challenge, declared a climate emergency and announced some targets I welled up. https://apnews.com/1e946085841af1e942659d4154d75d03

I know Spain has been suffering from a climate changed reality too. They have endured vicious heat waves and droughts and wildfires and storms. But it was this photo that really got me.

Thanks to the Greta Thunbergs and the Spains of the world I can hope a little. I can hope that the hideous deaths by fire of my acquaintances in Cobargo and all those other human lives lost, that the destruction of homes and livelihoods, that the unconscionable annihilation of over a billion animals, that all that can mean something, can invoke change. Because if this apocalypse does not foster a massive scaling back on CO2 emissions, then nothing will, until the next apocalypse. By then, will it be too late?

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Australian Bushfire hits Cobargo – When a bushfire wipes out your old home town

For the last four days I have been gripped by emotions I can scarcely describe, struggling to take in the catastrophe as it plays out through the lives of my friends.

Catastrophic bushfires have been plaguing Australia since September, the result of three years of drought, extreme heat and very dry air and wind. You would need to have your head in a bucket not to have noticed. I have been stirred into climate action as a result. My mum mentioned a fire officer had said the whole of the Great Dividing Range could burn before we get any rain. I didn’t want to believe that but now I think it could be an accurate prediction. The stats keep coming out and the totals keep getting scaled up. We have certainly lost to fire land the size of West Virginia and I believe we will end up with cindered land the size of Scotland. Not to mention the lives of people, at least half a billion animals, and the thousands of homes lost. Our do-nothing, pro-coal, business-as-usual Prime Minister refused to meet with chief fire officers who were very keen to warn him of the looming catastrophe back in May. They could see what was coming. He didn’t want to hear it.

On Monday 30th December I was kept busy tracking the fires beginning to take hold in East Gippsland. I was taking a keen interest because I know that area well. I set one of my novels there. I used to travel through the area on my way from the Far South Coast of New South Wales to Melbourne. I was worried. I opened The Guardian live feed. Slowly, I grew alarmed. Chaos unfolded and I could see that Mallacoota was doomed.

Photo of sky as fire front approached. Photo unfiltered

Cobargo

As that reality sank in, a notification came through from the Rural Fire Service alerting of a fire that had taken hold up in Badja Road; that it was so intense it had created its own thunderstorm and had crossed the Tuross River and was heading east. I looked on Maps. I saw straight away that my old home town of Cobargo lay directly to the southeast.

It is an idyllic location –

The view, from the garden I created and the house I co-built

 

The New Year’s Eve forecast was for strong northwesterly winds that would blow the fire straight for the town. It was a fair distance. Some twenty-five kilometres. So I thought maybe the RFS would take defensive action and things would be okay.

They couldn’t. It wasn’t possible. I woke up on New Year’s Day to find my friends had been alerted in the small hours to leave as the fire charged at them over the mountains and screamed through the valleys. Friends told to go to first one village, then another and then on to a town and then another. Hardly anywhere was safe.

I have owned four properties in the area and lived in another four. I sorted mail at the Cobargo post office. I worked in a gift shop. My children attended the local school. My nieces and nephews were born and grew up on a farm on the edge of the village. I wrote a memoir set in Cobargo, a memoir of building a sustainable lifestyle dream 2005-2009. It was a dream of survival in a post-climate changed reality in what I thought was a climate safe environment. First book I ever wrote. It is currently unpublished.

It is a surreal feeling to be so desperate for news of a place that was once your home, your entire life. All the while knowing how many people you knew or walked past every day are suffering. Are traumatised.

Aerial view of fires

I started checking Facebook profiles to see what my friends were doing. If they were safe. One announced he was staying to defend. I kept going back to his post for updates. Then, the power and comms went out. No more news.

It was an anxious day of waiting, many hours of scrolling through posts and on live media newsfeeds for announcements. Slowly the news filtered through. I saw people I knew appearing on TV. Cobargo had lost a father and son. I knew the father. He was part of the show society committee when I was secretary. His son went to school with my daughters. Then I saw the footage of the main street. The post office survived. A large chunk of the historic village, many buildings over 120 years old, razed. Buildings housing gift shops and cafes. A large portion of what makes Cobargo quaint, what gives it its olde worlde charm, gone.

As that shock sank in, I learnt of friends who had lost their homes. Of others badly burned trying to save theirs. My stay and defend friend did manage to save his: I got the news via his daughter. Other houses in his vicinity are gone. People describe the smoke the heat the chaos the confusion the heroic moments. People describe houses exploding and animals incinerated and birds falling dead out of the sky. 

So far, I only know the status of two places I lived. The home I built has survived. The farm next door where my parents lived for seven years has been razed. This photo, showing the current owner, features the bedroom where my mum slept – the wall behind the car.

The people of Cobargo are livid with the federal government and particularly the callous indifference of the Australian Prime Minister. As they should be.

Local mum berates Scott Morrison over lack of support.

https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2020/jan/02/scott-morrison-abused-by-bushfire-victims-in-nsw-town-of-cobargo

The Looming Threat Continues

And there is no comfort on the immediate horizon. My sister, who still lives in the region, is evacuating like many thousands of others. Even the outer limits of the towns are under threat. Everyone will have to huddle in the centre of towns with the fire approaching.

There are many towns under severe threat tomorrow, Saturday 4th January, in NSW. Humidity will be below 10%. Temps up to 48C. (118.4F) Wind speeds up to 80kmh. The southerly change is not due till Sunday and it will bring its own difficulties. Conditions in Victoria are no better. There are a lot of people in tiny towns trapped. There is no water down there. It is a humanitarian crisis. (watch the fire action here – https://hotspots.dea.ga.gov.au/)

 

Meanwhile, back in Victoria, the horror continues. People are trapped in tiny villages, completely cut off. In Mallacoota people are being evacuated on navy ships. To the north, mass evacuations are occurring. And the fires in the Snowy Mountains and slopes, the two fat blobs on the bottom left corner of the map above, they are joining up and when the cool change does sweep through on Sunday, they are heading straight for Canberra.

We need to face the horror of this and stamp it into our brains. These monster fires are capable of burning through the night traversing 24km in about 6 hours as though by stealth. These fires create firestorms that roar at you like a steam train, they hurl “embers” (read little fire bombs) many kilometres, they suck the oxygen out of the air, they create their own weather including lightning and tornadoes; these fires have been caused by climate change. 

My heart goes out to everyone caught up in this devastation.

Call to Action:

 

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey. She has become a climate activist.

Do Something to Make a Difference

Climate Change: The Australian Apocalypse

These last weeks and months I have been caught up in the horror show that is the Australian bushfire season and the insane heatwave. Not to mention the dust storms and our bone dry interior rendering scores of communities WITH NO WATER. What is unfolding here is well beyond Day Zero. It’s time all of us faced the reality we have been wilfully ignoring for decades.

With fires blazing out of control all over the continent, lives lost, homes lost, wildlife incinerated, it has been impossible for me to write creatively. Book promo, which is the usual undertaking for authors during these weeks in the hope of Christmas sales, has seemed to me in very poor taste, for me personally, that is. I have been unable to detach from the apocalyptic reality. I’ve felt the grief of those who have lost loved ones and homes and livelihoods. I have listened to the fire chiefs describing these new kinds of fire, ferocious fires that create their own weather. Fires that are too big and too erratic to be controlled. Each morning, I read the headlines and I can’t repress the tears.

Fire in NSW, 20 Dec 2020

I have read with alarm countless articles on climate change and it is fast sinking in that what we are going through right now in Australia, or indeed during the whole of 2019 around the world, is the ‘new normal’. How will we cope? How will we cope lurching from disaster to disaster? What lies ahead for us? This situation – while it goes on first here then there and everywhere else can ignore it – is a global state of emergency and someone needs to declare it.

Where Are Our Leaders?

Meanwhile, our governments, and especially the Australian government, are choosing to do nothing to mitigate climate change and everything to make this disastrous situation worse. Their myopia has as much to do with vested self-interest as it does the pressures exerted on them by powerful lobby groups of the fossil fuel industry. Not to mention kid bro Australia has to be seen to be kowtowing in lickspittle fashion to the mega-power coming out of the US.

In the absence of effective leadership, we need to take the matter into our own hands, as has been exemplified by our retired fire chiefs who have banded together to hold a bush fire/climate change summit in 2020. https://www.theguardian.com/australia-news/2019/dec/17/hugely-disappointed-emergency-chiefs-to-hold-bushfire-summit-with-or-without-pm These fire chiefs give me hope. They are standing firm and they are firmly situated in mainstream Australia. They cannot be sidelined as fringe dwellers.

Voices of Negativity

I have had to put down my pen and focus my attention on this cataclysmic situation, because I am well aware we need to make change happen fast.

We need to understand that the scale and intensity of the bushfires now raging throughout Australia is entirely the result of climate change. Some are countering this reality by talking about fuel loads and blaming the ‘greenies’, the ‘environmentalists’ – two dirty words thanks to a decades long smear campaign – for limiting fuel-reduction burns. Fuel loads have little to nothing to do with these fires as has been stated by our fire chiefs.

We need to sidestep the arguments over whether Greta Thunberg should be in school, questions over who is funding her, and suspicions over their agenda. Put the word ‘Green’ in anything and the blinkered clarion conspiracy or some such nonsense. Greta Thunberg is who she is and she’s doing a grand job.

Others complain about how annoying Extinction Rebellion is, and ‘those people should not be allowed to disrupt our lives’. What an absurd complaint! They are taking action because the rest of us do-nothings haven’t.

We need to step outside of our own habituated thinking patterns and face the situation. Inertia is going to kill us.

Then there are the deniers. Frankly, climate change denial is an idiotic position in the face of irrefutable truth. Those who perpetuate the lies should be held accountable. Those who believe them need therapy. As many are saying, we need an international court for Climate Crimes Against Humanity. That will mop up the fossil fuel giants behind the misinformation campaign.

Do Something to Make a Difference

The first question we should all be asking ourselves, the first thought we should have at the beginning of each day is this: What Am I Doing to Make a Difference? Just about every one of us can do something. It isn’t hard. We really should be doing everything to make a difference, but something is a good start. To do nothing in the face of this reality is not only astonishingly selfish, it is astonishing self-destructive. I acknowledge those who cannot act to mitigate climate change for various legitimate reasons. The rest of us must double our efforts to compensate. We cannot wait around for our governments to do all the heavy lifting. We cannot be complacent. Here are a few things you can do: https://isobelblackthorn.com/2019/11/24/authors-have-a-moral-duty-to-help-save-the-planet/

I have taken a stand. I have a huge solar system on my roof and I feed in more power than I use. I have no car and am not much of a consumer of anything. These are the things I have been able to do. I mention them because I do not want to be considered a hypocrite. I have been concerned about climate change since the mid 1980s. I am now declaring myself a climate activist. I’ll do as much as I can.

Somehow or other, I will also continue to write books, but existential stress undermines creativity, so it won’t be easy.

Isobel Blackthorn is an award-winning author of unique and engaging fiction. She writes gripping mysteries, dark psychological thrillers and historical fiction. She is the author of The Unlikely Occultist: a biographical novel of Alice A. Bailey.

Authors have a moral duty to help save the planet

I have been dwelling all day on whether I should write this post. Then I started re-watching Climate Change: The Facts – David Attenborough’s documentary on climate change – and I decided that yes, I must.

Authors often taken a stand on various issues. We have a tendency to champion causes when our latest release carries that theme. Right now, when it comes to climate change, I don’t have a book I am promoting. I just feel the need to speak out. There are some in the writing community who believe we should zip it and get on with entertaining readers. But what of authors such as Tim Winton or Richard Flanagan or Arundhati Roy, to mention but three, who have stepped up and written extensively on the environment and social justice.

Authors have a moral duty to lend their weight to global salvation at a point in history that is so critical, extinction is a very real possibility.

Thanks to our inertia, our planet has reached a tipping point. The dystopias presented in climate fiction are becoming a reality today and not at some point fifty or a hundred years from now. The climate denialist machine funded by the fossil fuel industry has successfully thwarted efforts to raise widespread awareness. The same fossil fuel industry is totally aware that climate change is real and they are for the most part selfishly and greedily planning on milking the planet for all it is worth regardless of the death they cause. They must be stopped.

The United Nation’s IPCC has been constrained, forced by governments into providing the most conservative estimates when climate change scientists have for decades known how fast climate change will happen once it really gets going. In the past few years in language and reality we have gone from the cautious-sounding global warming to the more realistic global heating and climate catastrophe. Vast swathes of Australia and southern Africa are sliding into permanent drought. Communities are running out of water. Mass human migration is on the cards. What of the plants and animals left behind? Our glaciers are melting, the tundra is melting, the Arctic has melted. A one degree rise in global temperature and our weather has become wild and chaotic. We are experiencing monster storms, ferocious winds, freak winter freezes, droughts, extreme heat waves, torrential downpours and devastating floods. The evidence is everywhere.

Authors situate their books in settings around the world. Each and every one of those settings is affected by climate change. As writers we are rooted in the very worlds we create – perhaps with the exception of speculative fiction – and as storytellers we are reliant on the continuity of our precious resource, our planet Earth, with all of the wonder and magic that nature affords. Our fiction will soon appear quaint and redundant as the world we live in undergoes radical change. And as creatives, the anguish climate change looks set to cause will affect us profoundly. I for one, do not wish to be burdened with writing stories set in an apocalypse.

Take Action to Help Mitigate Climate Change

This is a call to action. Do something to make a difference. Stand on the right side of history. Now is not the time to think about it. Act. All of us together can turn this trajectory around. But it is going to take all of us, not just a handful. (For my part, I do not own a car, I use my feet and public transport, and I have just put a 5.5KW solar system on my roof, making me a net energy provider. But, I need to do more.)

From – https://www.activesustainability.com/climate-change/6-actions-to-fight-climate-change/

  1. Reduce emissions
  2. Save energy
  3. Reduce, reuse, recycle
  4. Eat low-carbon
  5. Act against forest loss
  6. Demand governments take action

In conversation with Cli-fi author Sue Parritt

After reviewing Pia and the Skyman a few days ago, it’s a pleasure to speak with author, Sue Parritt and discover what motivates her to write Climate Fiction.

image1

Starting with the obvious, tell me a little about yourself. Where were you raised? Where do you live now?

I was born and raised in Bournemouth, a seaside town in southern England. At 19 I married my childhood sweetheart, Mark, and seven months later we emigrated to Brisbane, Australia. We have one son, David. After graduating (B.A. University of Queensland 1982, with majors in English Literature, Drama and French) I worked in university libraries until taking early retirement in 2008 to concentrate on creative writing. I now live in a bayside town, Mornington, in southern Victoria, where I spend many hours writing in my beautiful garden studio built by Mark.

 When did you start writing fiction?

I have always loved books. As a sickly child often away from school for weeks at a time, I read voraciously, immersion in fascinating stories enabling me to forget about illness for a while. My favourite childhood books were: David Copperfield, Great Expectations, A Christmas Carol, Jane Eyre, Wuthering Heights, Little Women, Good Wives, Tess of the D’Urbervilles and Moonfleet, a novel set not far from my home. My grandparents loved Dickens and I read most of his works from their nineteenth-century editions. My parents stressed the importance of education, provided a houseful of books, recordings of Shakespearian plays and the opportunity to discuss what I had read or heard. My father, in particular, shared his love of literature with me, often reading aloud excerpts from Shakespeare, poems and the Bible.

Writing has been a passion since my teenage years when I wrote poetry, usually reflecting my feelings about social issues or newly discovered love. During my teens and early twenties, I also entered public speaking competitions, often including snippets of my poetry in my speeches. I spoke about the threat of nuclear war, mental illness, and pacifism.

Since taking early retirement, I have written four novels: Sannah and the Pilgrim, the first of a trilogy, which draws on contemporary conservative attitudes towards climate change and refugees to present a dystopian view of a future Australia. Published by Odyssey Books in 2014, Sannah and the Pilgrim was commended in the FAW Christina Stead Award 2014. The second, Pia and the Skyman was published in April 2016, the third, The Sky Lines Alliance is scheduled to be released in October 2016. My fourth book, Safety Zone, deals with gender equality, pacifism and emerging feminism and is yet to be published.

During my employment at the Victorian College of the Arts, I was encouraged by a Senior Lecturer in Film and Television to try my hand at scriptwriting. I have since written several drafts of a feature film screenplay: Feed Thy Enemy based on my father’s unusual experiences in Naples during and after World War II. So far I have been unable to find a producer, so plan to rewrite the project as a novel. My short TV drama script, ‘Last Fling’ (based on a short story, published in ITA 1996) received First Prize in the FAW Whitelight TV Drama Award 2009 and I have also written the pilot for a TV series based on Sannah and the Pilgrim.

That’s an impressive achievement. Every author draws inspiration from other authors. Who inspires you?

I don’t have a favourite author or genre. I have always read widely, however some of my preferred authors are: Helen Garner, Margaret Drabble, Mary Wesley, Sebastian Faulks, Ian McEwan, Kate Grenville, Anita Shreve, Joyce Carol Oates, Elizabeth Jolley.

I am inspired to write by the issues facing our twenty-first century world, such as climate change, refugees, war, inequality. By creating speculative fiction that I believe could easily become fact, I hope to inspire more ordinary people to take a stand and work for a more equitable and sustainable future.

Having just read Pia and the Skyman I’m interested to hear what drove you to write it.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

Pia and the Skyman, is the second book in my trilogy of a future Australia scarred by the ravages of climate change and decades of totalitarian government.

In this tale of loyalty, betrayal and duplicity, I focus on a tiny population forced to flee their home and the ramifications when a significant percentage, including hundreds of children, are refused asylum due to unacceptable difference. I present choices for the reader that are intended to be disconcerting as Pia and Kaire risk not only lengthy imprisonment to help those still suffering in apartheid Australia, but become involved in a conspiracy that if discovered, will see them wandering the universe forever stateless.

Age 20, Pia’s heritage is Pacific Islander and European. She is passionate, volatile, adventurous and unwavering in her determination to help liberate her people from generations of domination by an oppressive regime. Intelligent and savvy, she knows how to survive in a harsh world.

Age 28, Kaire is of European descent. A senior pilot from space station Skyz59, he originally came to Earth on a pilgrimage to experience the world of his ancestors but appalled by the society in which he found himself, now assists those trying to undermine the Australian government as well as those fleeing imprisonment for seditious activities. Naïve, uncomfortable with conflict, especially if it involves physical violence, Kaire still struggles to cope with Earth-life.

Pia and the Skyman took me a year to write, in sharp contrast to Sannah and the Pilgrim, which, including research, took about four years. As the second book in my trilogy, I already knew the central characters and had a good idea of the plot. I spend most weekdays (10-5) writing and occasional weekends if I have a deadline. My dream of becoming a published novelist has been realised with the publication of two novels and a third to be released soon. I took a risk in giving up paid work eight years ago to concentrate on writing but have no regrets. Writing is making retirement the best time of my life.

You can find out more about sue parritt by visiting her website. www.sueparritt.com
find my review HERE
and you can purchase pia and the skyman at AMAZON and all good booksellers

Pia and the Skyman by Sue Parritt

Sue Parritt’s Pia and the Skyman is the second in her Climate Fiction trilogy, following on from Sannah and the Pilgrim, which I reviewed last year.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN

From the very first sentence, Pia and the Skyman engages the reader in the action, Parritt quickly and skilfully establishing the backstory carried over from Sannah and the Pilgrim. Sannah’s daughter, Pia, and her former lover, Kaire, are thrown together to help maintain ‘the women’s line,’ a resistance movement in a climate changed future, set up to help free prisoners doomed to a lifetime in underground desert prisons in what has become an ‘Apartheid Australia.’

Then there’s the matter of Kaire the Skyman and his cohort of clones languishing on a space station that was launched many centuries before with the aim of seeking another planet for humanity. Kaire is not without criticism. “How arrogant to imagine they could wreck one planet then move on to another without a backward glance.”

Lies, deceit, betrayal and tragedy along with a healthy dose of passion carry the narrative along in what turns out to be a remarkably engaging read.

Pia and the Skyman is a thoughtful, carefully considered work.   Parritt’s writing is assured, confident and commanding, a steady pace maintained, the use of passive voice creating an emotional detachment befitting the stark conditions of a climate changed dystopia. “Desert desert go away…let us live another day,” the children in the playground chant.

Parritt is adept at creating an edge-of-survival atmosphere without recourse to over dramatisation. Her setting is vividly real, painted with a simple palette, and fine craftsmanship and attention to detail. Her characters are deftly portrayed and immediately recognisable.

The scenario Parritt depicts is not far removed from our own current reality, the story a metaphor for our times, and a logical extrapolations of successive Australian governments’ commitment to off-shore detention of asylum seekers in gulags. Environmental refugees are among us now. How many more will there be if we don’t amend our ludicrous dependence on fossil fuels?

There’s a deeply pacifist moral undertone that runs right through the story, carrying forward values of peace and right human relations, values elevated partly through Kaire, who in a fashion represents the higher moral ground. “Down there [in Aotearoa] his fellow settlers were doing their utmost to live a sustainable life, yet still found time to help those at risk in Australia. He wanted to shout out his admiration, tell them never to give up the struggle.”

Pia conveys values of compassion and goodwill. She acts, decisively and sometimes impulsively, exemplifying the determination and resilience of all the women who sacrifice their own safety for the sake of others in the Women’s Line – a powerful symbol of cooperation, collaboration and resistance founded on principles of solidarity and trust found amongst women in all situations of oppression and hardship the world over.

Through Pia and the Skyman Sue Parritt makes an important statement about the myopia that seems to have befallen our political leaders, especially in Australia. Humanity will be faced with harsh choices if environmental conditions become as brutal as they are in Parritt’s reality. As well they might. And I very much doubt humanity would have the capacity to respond all that differently to that of Parritt’s Apartheid Australia. On the whole we seem incapable of transcending our own selfish, divisive and hate fuelled beliefs. We’ll need a lot of goodwill and far-sightedness to avoid the scenario contained in this trilogy. Sue Parritt might as well be a soothsayer.

PIA AND THE SKYMAN CAN BE FOUND AT ODYSSEY BOOKS