THE SHORT VERSION
The Perth Writers Festival in the Great Southern opens on Sunday with one of the world’s great writers of historical non-fiction, Simon Winchester, in Albany to talk about his latest work Pacific.
He will be joined on stage in the Town Hall by Simon Smale from Bush Heritage Australia.
Smale is a New Zealander and he said he was keen to talk to Winchester because his work “speaks to me as a citizen of the Pacific.”
“In its scope Winchester's book matches that of the ocean it explores,” said Smale. “Traversing ten key aspects of the Pacific's recent history, he believes it is the ocean of the future. In a very real sense it is the generator of the world's weather, increasingly dramatic and stormy as climate change kicks in.”
On Monday Canadian novelist Patrick deWitt talks to Jon Doust. deWitt was born on Vancouver Island, named after George Vancouver who also visited Albany in 1791.
“I have read two of deWitt’s novels,” said Doust. “The Sisters Brothers and his latest, Undermajordomo Minor and both are intriguing, mysterious, dark, funny, and finely crafted. Both are takes on old genres, with the first a western and the second written in response to his reading of European folk tales.”
Maree Dawes is looking forward to talking to Virginia Reeves about the way she weaves disparate universes together and provides the reader with a past so detailed it feels like you could open a door and walk in.
“Her novel, Work Like Any Other, said Dawes, “takes us into the State of Alabama in the 1920s through the electricity company, borderline farming and prison without ever losing touch with the universal truths revealed through the inner landscapes of her characters.
Jasper Forde does not lead to boredom, said Warren Flynn, the writer’s chair for his Tuesday session. Forde has a background in major feature film production and he knows how to time scenes to make maximum impact with minimal words.
“Forde tries his hand at all genres,” said Flynn. “He has written a sort of Swiss Army knife range of books, so if you don't like a sub-plot, just wait five minutes and another will come along and if you don't like a genre, wait and another will pop-up.”
The final event features Paolo Bacigalupi, an American science fiction writer, talking with Giles Watson.
“As a writer whose own source of inspiration is often the natural world,” said Watson, “and as an environmental activist and wildlife rehabilitator, I feel an affinity with the mind that produced The Windup Girl and The Water Knife.
All Perth Writers’ Festival chaired sessions will take place in the Town Hall.
A FULL VERSION
Simon Smale on talking with Simon Winchester
The Bay of Plenty where I grew up on the east coast of New Zealand's North Island faces northeast to the great Pacific Ocean. The ancestors of the Maori kids who lived either side of me and who made up half the roll at the schools I attended in the small coastal town of Whakatane were the descendants of the indigenous Tau people of Taiwan who had migrated progressively eastwards across the Pacific over 4000-6000 years. They finally turned southwest to arrive in Aotearoa/New Zealand, then the last significant temperate landmass on the planet not yet colonised by our species, likely around 700 years ago.
The great Mata-atua - 'the Eye of God' canoe that landed in the estuary at Whakatane, was one of seven that arrived around that time, though there were others before and after, and the landscape of my childhood was steeped in the traditional stories of the vast ocean it had crossed, and of the travails it had endured, before finding at Whakatane the chosen place the ancestors had spoken of. Simon Winchester's 'Pacific', its scope matching that of the ocean it explores, speaks to me as a citizen of the Pacific.
Traversing ten key aspects of the Pacific's recent history, Simon makes the case that it is 'the ocean of the future'. It is in a real sense the generator of the world's weather, increasingly dramatic and stormy as climate change kicks in. And it is of course the stage upon which 'a sudden and wholesale redistribution of world power' from America to China, the superpowers that face each other across it, is being played out.
I attended a week-long Pacific nature conservation conference in Suva, Fiji, in December 2013. My lasting impression from that gathering was the sense that, unlike the powerful players around its periphery, the inhabitants of the ocean itself - the Micronesian and Polynesian peoples of its thousands of islands and atolls - who perhaps stand to be most directly affected by these tectonic shifts in climate and geopolitics, feel they have no voice in shaping their future. How will they fare? We'll have lots to talk about when we meet in the Town Hall on 21 February!
Jon Doust on talking with Patrick deWitt
Some years ago Patrick deWitt withdrew from the world, but not the entire world, just the big one, the World Wide Web. I want to know why he did it, how he did it, how hard it was.
I have read two of deWitt’s novels – The Sisters Brothers and his latest, Undermajordomo Minor – both intriguing, mysterious, dark, funny, and finely crafted. Both are takes on old genres, with the first a western and the second written in response to his reading of European folk tales.
The Canadian writer could be on a roll as Oscar nominated actor John C. Reilly is about to star in a film version of The Sisters Brothers and apparently he has a tattoo of a lighthouse on one arm because he wanted to be a lighthouse keeper when he was a boy. Albany is perfect for him.
Maree Dawes on talking with Virginia Reeves
I want to talk with Virginia Reeves about her way of weaving disparate universes together and providing us with a past so detailed it feels like I could open a door and walk into it. Her novel, Work Like Any Other takes us into the State of Alabama in the 1920s through the electricity company, borderline farming and prison without ever losing touch with the universal truths revealed through the inner landscapes of her characters.
I think many of us will be also keen to hear about the powerhouse of the Michener Centre- her cohort there included Kevin Powers who was a guest of Perth Writers Festival GS in 2013
Warren Flynn on talking with Jasper forde
Do you easily bored? Yep, me too. That’s why Jasper Fforde likes to keep things moving.
Whether it’s a comic fantasy series for teenagers, or biting social satires for adults, you’re
guaranteed a fun journey once you turn that first page. With his background in major
feature film production, Fforde knows how to time scenes wonderfully to make maximum
impact with minimal words – something I always look for in quality writers.
Fforde has a prodigious output in several different genres – and titles which inspire an
instant rapport for savvy readers: The Last of the Dragonslayers, The Well of Lost Plots, First Among Sequels among many.
He also has the Monty Pythonesque ability to tie an ordinary light pole into knots: The Gingerbreadman: Psychopath, sadist, genius, convicted murderer and biscuit is loose in the streets of Reading. It isn't Jack Spratt's case. He and Mary Mary have been reassigned due to falling levels of nursery crime, and The NCD is once more in jeopardy.
At some point most novelists are asked: “What category do your books fit into?” Well for my work, it depends which title you pick – action-adventure; cross-cultural romance; suspense thriller. When Jasper was asked this question in reference to just one book, he replied: I generally say that it is a bit of a hodgepodge. Romance, thriller, fantasy, crime, everything.
A sort of Swiss Army knife of books! Or a station with too many trains in it. So, if you don't like a sub-plot, just wait five minutes and another one will come along. If you don't like a genre, then just wait and another one will pop-up, as if by magic.
There’s definitely a heap of magic in each of Fforde’s books and his first stand-alone novel, Early Riser, is bound to have even sleepy-heads ready to leap into a new adventure. “Sleep is death spread thin.” To sleep, perchance to dream really funny stuff.
Miles Watson on talking with Paolo Bacigalupi
As a writer whose own source of inspiration is so often the natural world, and as an environmental activist and wildlife rehabilitator, I feel a natural affinity with the mind that produced The Windup Girl and The Water Knife. We are messing up our world with alarming rapidity, and Paolo Bacigalupi's dystopias are all too realistic, but his science fiction also testifies to the resilience of the human spirit - and of its capacity for good. I sometimes need to be reminded of the latter.
I also seem to share with Paolo a fascination for creating female characters and constructing their voices. His Windup Girl - a genetically modified woman designed to meet rampant male desires in a world ravaged by climate change and resource-depletion - excites my sympathy and awakens my admiration in a way that I hope my own characters do for other readers. He and I also share a love for a well-constructed, vivid, mind-absorbing sentence.
As a coastal community, Albany has much to lose in the struggle against climate change and environmental degradation. Of all the voices in contemporary fiction, none could be more urgently applicable to our own hopes and fears than Paolo's.