Series: Book 2 of The Wyrd
Author: Alis Franklin
Publication Date: July 2015
Genres: Dark Fantasy, Mythology
Ragnarok—aka the end of the world—was supposed to doom
the gods as well. Instead, it was a cosmic rebooting. Now
low-level IT tech and comic-book geek Sigmund Sussman
finds himself an avatar of a Norse goddess. His boyfriend, the
wealthy entrepreneur Lain Laufeyjarson, is channeling none
other than Loki, the trickster god. His best friends, Em and
Wayne, harbor the spirits of slain Valkyries. Cool, right?
The problem is, the gods who survived the apocalypse are still
around—and they don’t exactly make a great welcoming
committee. The children of Thor are hellbent on reclaiming
their scattered birthright: the gloves, belt, and hammer of
the Thunder God. Meanwhile, the dwarves are scheming, the
giants are pissed, and the goddess of the dead is
demanding sanctuary for herself and her entire realm.
Caught in the coils of the Wyrd, the ancient force that governs
gods and mortals alike, Sigmund and his crew are suddenly
facing a second Ragnarok that threatens to finish what the first
one started. And all that stands in the way are four nerds
bound by courage, love, divine powers, and an
encyclopedic knowledge of gaming lore.
5 Things About Australia
When you write speculative fiction, everything comes down to worldbuilding, which is the fancy word writers use to describe the ability to make the fantastic elements of a story consistent and believable. For the Books of the Wyrd (Liesmith, Stormbringer), I used to think this meant focusing on things like the authenticity of the Norse elements, and the mechanics of the Wyrd and Wyrdborn. As someone who’s consumed fantasy media ever since she was a little girl, this was something I figured I could handle.
And then I decided to set my story in Australia.
I mean, it made sense; I’m Australian, so why wouldn’t I? The problem? I sold Liesmith and Stormbringer to a U.S. publisher, who published it to a U.S. audience. Suddenly, I was coming up against questions about an entirely different set of worldbuilding, one I hadn’t prepared for.
This is the “worldbuilding” of Australia-as-setting. And, let me tell you; getting over with Viking gods and magic? Easy. Getting over with an Australian setting that defies the stereotype of rugged white manly men doing rugged white manly men things in some nebulously hostile Outback? Much, much harder.
So let’s have a quick look at that stereotype. Because as much as Australians love messing with foreigners’ perceptions of our country, I really think it’s time to clear a few things up…
1. Australia is really, really big.
How big? About this big:
It’s the sixth largest country in the world, in fact, at 2,969,907 square miles (for comparison, the U.S.A. is 3,794,100 square miles). Which is an easy fact to overlook, because…
2. Australia is really, really empty.
This is the first thing you need to know if you’ve ever un-ironically used the phrase “Australian Outback.” Because while Australia might take up roughly 5% of the world’s total land-mass, it accounts for only 0.003% of the population.
See that yellow area? That’s roughly what can be called the “Outback.” It’s also home to a mere 2% of Australia’s 23 million inhabitants, largely due to it being an inhospitable desert filled with snakes and skin cancer. For comparison, about 20% of the country’s population lives in the city of Sydney.
Sydney, for the record, has a climate approximating that of San Francisco, which is why our eucalypts grow really well in California, and why the Australian and Californian wine industries are so similar. Meanwhile Hobart, our most southern state capital, has weather and surrounding forests closer to those found in Seattle. In Canberra, the nation’s capital, winter nights can get down to 14°F, and yet the climate is too dry to ever snow. So while Australia might sell itself as the land of tropical beaches and deserts, the reality is most Australians live in cities that are far more temperate and, in some cases, downright freezing.
3. Australia is the only country in the world where Starbucks went out of business.
Which is a fact Australians take as a matter of national pride. Coffee, and the associated coffeeshop culture, is deeply entrenched in the Australian psyche and has been since it was imported from Europe by Greek and Italian migrants in the late 20th century. You can barely take three steps in any major Australian city without tripping over someone with an oiled beard, an espresso machine, a bag of fair trade beans, and some sort of rainbow trolley of macarons with flavors like “caramel miso” and “chai shiraz.” The 2015 World Barista Championship was won by a guy who fuels the functioning of the entire Australian government by running the most hipster cafe in Canberra. Growing up in Australia meant I’d never even seen brewed filter coffee until I went to the U.S. late last year. It was served in restaurants! I’m pretty sure asking for filter coffee in an Australian restaurant will get you put on some kind of ASIO watch list for un-Australian behavior.
You think I’m kidding about Australians and coffee, but I moved into a new apartment recently and it had an espresso machine and wine fridge pre-built into the kitchen. Which meant we could throw out the three espresso machines and the extra wine fridge we’d brought with us from our previous house, because if there’s one thing Australians like almost as much as they like coffee, it’s wine. Australians drink something like 18 million gallons of wine per year. And what are all these drunk, highly awake Australians doing? Spending roughly $20 billion on eating out in restaurants, as it turns out.
Coffee. Wine. Food. Welcome to Australia, mate.
4. Australia is cosmopolitan.
The mental image most non-Australians have of the “average Aussie” probably looks some-thing like this:
If all you’d ever seen of Australia were cultural exports like the ones above, you’d be forgiven for being surprised to learn “Charlotte Nguyen” is one of the most statistically Aussie names, and that roughly 40% of Australians have at least one parent born overseas. While the United Kingdom is still a large exporter of new Australians, more and more of our immigration is coming from countries like China, India, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Given that most of these communities are centered in cities like Sydney and Melbourne, the “average Australian” is less a crocodile wrestling white dude and more a chai latte-sipping Vietnamese-Australian who works in investment banking.
5. Australia has a thriving local SFF scene.
So while Charlotte Nguyen the investment banker is drinking said latte, she’s very likely to be reading some local speculative fiction.
“Local” may be stretching the definition, given the size of the country, but Australia’s SFF scene is strong and internationally recognized. Small presses like Twelfth Planet Press and FableCroft Publishing produce works by local authors. At the moment I’m gushing over Sprawl, a specific collection set in Australia suburbia (including one about the place I grew up!), and recommending it to anyone and everyone stuck in the Outback Steakhouse version of Australiana. And speaking of Australian short stories, we have Andromedia Spaceways Inflight Magazine and AntipodeanSF, or there’s the freely distributed Dimension6.
With all this publishing activity, the Aurealis and the Ditmar Awards have been established to honor the best of it, and their recipients lists (PDF) are a great place to start when looking to read more Australian authors. Then, when you want to meet your new favorites face-to-face, the Australian convention scene includes events like Swancon, Continuum, Conflux, and more.
To get yourself started with all of this, most large cities have writer and fan groups (here’s mine) that are involved in organizing and producing content for some or all of the above.
So what are you waiting for? Throw out the battered Akubra and the tired old stereotypes, and grab your flat white and your Thermomix instead. Because it’s time to visit modern Australia.
About the Author
Alis Franklin is a thirtysomething Australian author of queer urban fantasy. She likes cooking, video games, Norse mythology, and feathered dinosaurs. She’s never seen a live drop bear, but stays away from tall trees, just in case.
Follow the tour here.