I wrote Desert Crash in 1983 (when I was 9).
In the E-Space Universe (I was a big Doctor Who fan) there was a planet called Jonestar. It was a large planet with two big bright suns, sparkling lakes and blue skies. It had beautiful cities with shops of all sorts. Jonestar had a weapon area which was a big piece of land with an unbreakable dome over it. All the weapons were stored in there. The townspeople didn't need weapons there weren't any robbers or murderers on Jonestar. (How is that for world-building?)
One day, in the year 2978, a dreadful thing happened. A disease struck. It was Zarcdon Blarblisters. Zarcdon Blarblisters is a terrible disease that kills people! There is only one antidote and that is found on Jirojumps. Jirojumps is a huge planet in another universe many millions of light years away.
[ So brave Captain Fungus McGreen leads a crew in search of Jirojumps and the antidote. Along the way they get sucked into a black hole, encounter a spaceship graveyard and are attacked by killer robots.]
The robots were lumbering with big heavy guns and the men were dodging laserfire and shooting back at the robots too. The leader of the robots was A77. A77 was ten feet tall and all gold. He was standing on a little flying platform. There were 7500 robots and 2070 men. (It's good to be specific). After 2 hours the men were all gone except 7 men. They were Fungus McGreen, Dr. Jones, Mack McMeen, Dr. Jarbodian, Zim, Zack and Arang. There were 6070 robots left.
[They escape from the robots by hiding in a cave, where they conveniently find a teleporter.]
Later they reached a time warp. Now in all time warps there is a Warp God. You have to battle him in combat. To win you have to kill him or he kills you. Fungus McGreen and the other three descended and landed the ship in the warp. They came out carrying their guns. Within a second a Warp God appeared. He was wearing gold clothes and had a brownish beard. The Warp God raised his finger and Zack disappeared in a puff of smoke. Arang shot at the Warp God but to no avail. The laser did no harm. The Warp God raised his finger and Arang disappeared in a puff of white smoke. Dr. Jones who had a different gun, which was filled with a special liquid called Fenx, fired his gun and the Warp God crumbled into a heap on the ground. (The origins and uses of Fenx are not at all explained).
[The journey continues. They are attacked by a spaceship with prongs that grab missiles fired at it and throw them back.]
[They finally get to Jirojumps, a desert planet where they are attacked by giant earthworms. (I hadn't read Dune and this was before the movie, but somehow I was influenced by it). They have to navigate an acid sea filled with monsters. Then a forest full of trees with laser guns. Then they finally get the antidote, but Fungus McGreen is killed by a hairy animal with a machine on its back that throws bombs. The others make it home with the antidote and become heroes].
What’s Really Going on With All These Vampires?
“Forget everything you’ve read about vampires so far. The current bloodsucking trend, achieving maximum ferocity in November with the release of the sequel to Twilight, isn’t about outsiders or immigrants or religion or even AIDS, as critics and bloggers have argued ad nauseam these past few months. There’s a much better, simpler, more obvious explanation: Vampires have overwhelmed pop culture because young straight women want to have sex with gay men.”
You Know You Have a Tired YA Fantasy Theme When…
I arrived back in Australia on Monday.
I had a wonderful vacation. Eastern Europe is such an interesting place.
I finished my trip with a visit to a friend who is living in Germany. I almost stayed an extra day in Germany. My flight from Frankfurt was overbooked and they were looking for volunteers to stay an extra day. They were offering hotel accommodation and 600 euros in compensation. I was going to volunteer, but somebody else beat me to it.
I’ve got a lot of photos to sort through and will add some more blog entries about places I visited after Belarus.
I didn’t get much writing done while I was away, but I got lots of ideas for stories and I’ve kept sending my earlier stories out. Have been busy clocking up rejection letters.
Since Clarion I’ve written 3 new short stories and now all of them have been accepted. So I must have learned something there.
I’ve got a flash fiction piece coming up in Antipodean SF, a short story in the 12th Planet kids’ SF anthology and I just had a second story accepted by Fantasy Magazine.
I’ll be up in northern NSW for a little while, then will have to organise finding a new apartment and a new job in Melbourne.
American writer Jeff VanderMeer (one of my tutors at the writing workshop I did in Brisbane at the start of the year) has a write-up about me on his web site.
Kansai Scene recently published my interview with an Australian potter who is one of the few foreigners to have his work recognised by a Japanese tea master.
From Mongolia we took the train to the Russian border. It often takes a long time to go across the border.
We had to wait for the Mongolian customs and immigration officials to board the train and check people. Then the train travelled a short way to the Russian border and Russian immigration officials checked everyone’s visas. Then they had to change the trains over.
The whole process lasted more than 9 hours.
In Russia we took the train to Irkutsk. We stayed at a little town near Lake Baikal, about an hour from Irkutsk. We did a homestay for a night with families who live near the lake. Baikal is the deepest lake in the world. At its deepest point it’s 1637 metres deep and it contains about 20% of the world’s fresh water.
From Irkutsk we got aboard the Trans-Siberian Express. We joined the line at about the halfway point (it runs all the way to Vladivostok in the east). The journey from Irkutsk to Ekaterinburg took 51 hours.
The Trans-Siberian trains run on Moscow time, (Irkutsk is five hours ahead of Moscow). Even the clocks at the train stations are usually set to Moscow time, which can make things confusing.
The trains were comfortable and clean and we shared four person sleeping compartments.
Most of the trains had restaurant cars but the quality and price of the food varied greatly. On one occasion four of us ordered meals, but only two of us got food.
The trains have a supply of hot water and a lot of people survive on instant noodles they brought with them (us included). Unfortunately Russian supermarkets generally don’t have the wide selection of flavors that you can expect in China or Japan.
The carriages are usually ruled over by female attendants. They are notorious for waking people early in the morning and grabbing their bed sheets, so that they will have all the bed sheets packed away by the time the train arrives.
The train makes short stops along the way and a few times a day there’s the chance to get off the train for between 10 and 30 minutes. There usually isn’t much to see, except for old ladies selling food.
You want to make sure you get back onto the train on time. On the tour before us, two people hadn’t got onto the train on time and the train attendant chased after them. All three of them got left behind at a small station and had to wait a few hours for the next train.
The people on the tour with me were good company and we had a really fun time on the trains. We spent the time talking and playing cards.
We stayed in Ekaterinburg for 2 nights. Ekaterinburg is where the last Czar and his family were taken after the revolution. There’s a church built on the site where they were executed.
Once inside Russia, I began my program of Communist indoctrination.
Ekaterinburg had an interesting keyboard sculpture.
I saw wedding groups all over Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. Newlyweds were visiting scenic places to have their photos taken.
I wouldn’t go too far out of my way to visit either Irkutsk or Ekaterinburg, but they are nice places to break up the long train journey across Russia.
I like travelling by train and the Trans-Siberian is one of the world’s great train journeys. It was a wonderful experience.
Some number trivia: We were on the train at 12:34 and 56 seconds on 07/08/09.
I saw the weirdest ever message on an ATM in Minsk, Belarus.
I put my card in and just Russian writing came up (or maybe it was in Belarussian, I can’t tell the difference). So I hit what I hoped was the cancel button and my card was returned.
A different menu appeared which had a button labelled FAQ.
It’s disturbing that these questions would be FREQUENTLY asked (and why in English? And the answer is in Russian?)
Someone translated the answer to the questions for me and it says in Russian: Because you forgot to give him food.
We took the train from Beijing to the Mongolian border. The trains in Mongolia use a different rail gauge from China, so at the border they take the train into a workshop (and with everyone aboard) jack the carriage up and change the undercarriage and wheels.
We stayed for a couple of days in Ulan Baator and also stayed for a night at a ger (traditional Mongolian tent) camp. The camp was in a really beautiful location and the gers are tourist ones and very comfortable. I was expecting to see lots of desert in Mongolia, but the camp site was in a location that could have been in a European Alpine area.
We also got to see a traditional Mongolian wrestling competition that was being held out in the countryside.
We visited a memorial to Soviet soldiers who died during the war.
We also ran across a Mongolian wedding party.
Ulan Baator has some really nice Tibetan Buddhist monasteries.
And surprisingly Ulan Baator is also home to the International Intellectual Museum (they have lots of puzzles). But their standards aren’t too high because as well as me, they let George W. Bush in when he visited.
Traditional Mongolian Greeting:
Mal sureg targan tavtaiyuu
(I hope your animals are fattening up nicely).
Temple of Heaven
The weather was bad when we went to the Great Wall, so we couldn’t see that much of it.
I also went to a tourist kung fu acrobatics show. That was fun to watch.
Chinese Trivia of the Day: The Great Wall is simply called the long wall in Chinese.
After Huang Shan, I visited Chengdu in Sichuan Province. On July 22 there was an eclipse in some parts of the world.
I saw a partial eclipse in Turkey and basically there was nothing to see, so I wasn’t holding out too much hope, especially since the skies are so grey in many parts of China.
Chengdu had a total eclipse though. The total eclipse was scheduled for 9:10. At 8:30 there was no difference. Then at about 9:10, the sun appeared from behind the clouds and you could see part of it disappearing. Then it went really dark suddenly, like it was the middle of the night. And in a few minutes it was light again.
Chengdu also has a panda sanctuary. The panda sanctuary was ok, but a bit disappointing compared to some of the photos I’ve seen. The pandas have nice outdoor play areas, but when I was there, all of the pandas were in their small, dark indoor enclosures. It was fun to watch them playing around, but it was too dark to take any good photos. I got to see a 3-day old baby panda, which was cool. It looked like a little mouse (but we weren’t allowed to take photos).
Then I went to Xi’an, one of the old capitals of China. The first Chinese emperor was buried here along with thousands of statues – the terracotta warriors. The terracotta warriors are displayed in three big pits. The main pit has thousands of stone warriors. Each of them have different faces.
The warriors were discovered in March 1974, an auspicious time for revealing world treasures.
Chinese Language Factoid of the Day
Panda is not a Chinese word. In Mandarin they’re called da xiong mao (big bear cat).
Disaster Aftermath Action Tips:
If you are dramatically rescued from the scene of a disaster, make sure you mention the name of a popular company in your first words.
There was a big earthquake in Sichuan province last year. One boy was pulled from the rubble after being trapped for 80 hours. His first words were that he wanted a cold Coke. He became a local celebrity known as Coke Boy and Coke have agreed to pay for his university education.
While the Chinese authorities have been busy dealing with earthquakes, repressing minority groups, censoring the Internet (Facebook was recently added to the long list of web sites banned in China) and detaining Australian business leaders for political reasons, I’ve been visiting lakes, climbing mountains and going on long train rides.
After Shanghai I took a night train to Huang Shan (Yellow Mountain) a city near one of China’s most famous tourist mountains. I took a cable car up the mountain and then went walking along the trails. Huang Shan is one of the most beautiful places I’ve ever been.
The only downside was how crowded it was, there were tens of thousands of Chinese tourists on the mountain trails.
The various rock formations have been given plenty of grandiose sounding names (although I suspect some of them are a bit lost in translation).
Some of the places marked on the map of the mountains:
Stone Monkey Gazing Over a Sea of Clouds
Nine Dragons Peak
Watching Fairy Peak
The Flower Grown Out of a Writing Brush Rock
Immortal Solarize Boots
Zhubajie Eating the Watermelon
Heavenly Dog Watching the Moon
Beginning to Believe Peak
Immortal Overturns the Desk
Wusong Catching the Tiger
Immortal Walking on Stilts
Former Dissident Submitting to the Will of the People
(Okay, I made the last one up).
How To Make Yourself Very Tired (And Smelly)
05:30: Get up and have a shower. Pack and check out of hostel.
06:15: Take minibus to bus transfer station.
07:30: Take bus to mountain cable car.
08:00: Battle hordes to buy cable car ticket (no one wants to wait in line) only to find out that I’m required to buy mountain park entrance park as well.
Mercilessly trample Chinese tourists underfoot to regain my place in the queue.
08:30: Take cable car up mountain.
09:00: Walk up and down mountain trails for 7 hours.
16:00: Line up for cable car down the mountain.
17:00: Get on cable car.
17:30: Get bus back to transfer station.
18:00: Find out that the minibuses back to city seemed to have stopped running. Share taxi with other tourists.
19:30: Back in city. Time to eat.
21:30: Take taxi to railway station.
22:30: Get on cheap-ass night train ($5 for 7 hour trip). There are no separate seats, just bench seats. People are getting on and off all night, which makes it hard to get much sleep.
06:00: Arrive in Hefei.
06:30: Put luggage in left luggage area and curse woman at the train station who sold me tickets with such bad connecting times.
08:00: Have breakfast and then wander around train station.
Fulfil prophecy of the coming of the white man. At least I assume that is what I must have done given the amount of people that stared at me.
Since Hefei is not renowned as a tourist city and I didn’t I see any other foreigners in the city, I’m guessing that a white man walking down the streets wearing a t-shirt with Japanese writing on it, is not a common occurence.
All within thirty minutes of wandering around the train station:
Grandmothers pointed me out to their grandchildren, mothers introduced their children to me, several people asked me if I was Japanese, people took photos of me, beggars showed me their wounds, people wanted to practice their English with me, ladies of ill repute invited me to sample their wares, and a gang of pickpockets followed me. (Fortunately I spotted them straight away and they went in search of easier prey. Then they fled when the police arrived).
Spend rest of the day hanging around the waiting lounge and various restaurants.
22:30: Get on night train. This is a more expensive train and has separate cabins with beds.
Still on the train. Share cabin with Chinese doctor that speaks barely any English. He is reading a book in Chinese about Rommel (the German World War II general) and is very excited because despite my attempts to convince him otherwise he thinks that I am German.
08:00: Arrive in Chengdu.
08:30: Take taxi to hostel. Time for a shower!