Set in the aftermath of "the Cull" – a catastrophic event that killed billions, wiped out civilisation and left just a few survivors who happened to have the right blood type – Journal Of The Plague Year collects together three tales of life after the apocalypse. Authors Adrian Tchaikovsky, Malcolm Cross and CB Harvey have created very different visions of the end of the world – The Bloody Deluge , Orbital Decay and Dead Kelly .
Here Harvey, the very first winner of SFX's Pulp Idol short story competition, explains why Australia was the perfect setting for Dead Kelly :
Probably the most obvious contrast is between culture and nature, which is kind of hardwired into the whole idea of the post-apocalypse. Even these days the British media present Australia as though the sum of its culture is Neighbours , Dame Edna and William and Kate larking about on Bondi. The fact that Australia is home to probably the oldest continuing culture on the planet never seems to enter the equation (75,000 years good enough for you?). Since post-apocalyptic stories are by definition about change and my story is set relatively soon after the Cull hits, it was important to show how the breakdown of culture manifests itself. Seemingly trivial things, like sun-block running out, take on massive importance when the sun is so unrelentingly fearsome and there’s a ruddy great hole in the ozone layer. I tried really hard not to present uniform decay but to show the city falling apart at different rates, with nature – never far away – reasserting its dominance.
The same things happens to my characters, with some coming to dominate while others fall apart. My anti-hero, Kelly McGuire, is a gang leader who’s been hiding out in the Bush when the Cull hits, having been betrayed by someone in his gang. Arch-Darwinist that he is, he’s able to adapt rapidly and effectively to the new environment, and sets about revenging himself on his former gang-members while simultaneously building himself an empire. During his adventures, though, he encounters many others less able to cope and of course he’s very willing to exploit their weaknesses to his own ends.
It’s not that he doesn’t have a moral code, it’s just that this code derives from a universe in which he’s at the centre. When I lived in the Blue Mountains and looked out over the National Park I was inordinately aware of my own irrelevance to the wider cosmos. It isn’t the same for McGuire. He’s convinced of his own greatness and will do anything to ensure his legacy.
Journal Of The Plague Year is out now from Abaddon.