Aftermath Contributor Melanie Harding-Shaw

Aftermath Contributor Melanie Harding-Shaw

Aftermath: Tales of Survival in Aotearoa New Zealand is SpecFicNZ’s new anthology, available here.

The anthology explores Aotearoa in a post-apocalyptic world. Disasters have occurred around the country and the world. New Zealand, in our isolation down under, may have escaped most of what happened around the world, but it was pretty bad out there. As Kiwis are apt to do, though, we’re “getting over it”. You know, she’ll be right …

This is not just an anthology of disaster stories. The pages are filled with hope in the form of short stories, poems, flash fiction and artwork about what comes afterwards. The contributions are exclusively from SpecFicNZ members and reflect the diversity and breadth of this country we love to call home … even if the edges are a bit torn and tattered.

We’re interviewing all the contributors to the anthology so you can get to know the brave souls who’ve battled zombies, aliens, earthquakes, volcanoes and more to bring you the stories you’ll find between its covers.

Today, we’re chatting with Melanie Harding-Shaw.

Aftermath includes a variety of disasters set all around Aotearoa New Zealand. What disaster / location combination did you write about and why?

My story ‘GAC ATG ATT ACA’ is set many generations into a climate change/ecological apocalypse that has left the surface of the world uninhabitable for humans. The setting of the story itself is an underground bunker in a location that isn’t divulged, but the location of the only other known survivors is revealed at the end as Latitude -41.28664, Longitude 174.77557, which is Wellington. Climate fiction is something I write to help process my own fear and sense of hopelessness at where our planet is heading. I’ve had climate fiction pieces published in Daily Science Fiction and Strange Horizons, and this story was first published in Little Blue Marble, which is a wonderful Canadian publisher. I’ve actually only just noticed all three of those stories contain hope even though their core stems from my cynicism about humanity’s ability to respond positively to the crisis in time.

How do you think the Kiwi approach to life after disaster is unique?

Before 2020, I would have said I didn’t think there would be much difference in how we approach life after disaster beyond the fact that we are geographically isolated from the rest of the world which has major implications for trade and supply of many essential goods. Now, I think it’s clear that our response to disaster can vary greatly from the rest of the world to our benefit, probably because our smaller population makes us politically more nimble. I just wish our response to every day need and systemic inequity was as encouraging.

What are your most valuable post-apocalyptic skills?

I would definitely die. Are the ability to design/decipher legislation and a fondness for spreadsheets post-apocalyptic skills?

They say the pen is mightier than the sword. Being a writer, you must have lots of pens. What creative use would you put them to in a post-apocalyptic New Zealand?

I actually can’t stand writing by hand unless its the very initial brainstorming of a novel so I only have a lot of pens because I have a lot of children. Well, three children. It seems like a lot. I don’t imagine the pens would have much of a shelf-life once we stopped having access to the materials to make them. I have better options at home for weapons and entertainment, and I believe they’re not as effective for tracheotomies as TV would suggest, so I’m hoping someone with more valuable post-apocalyptic skills than me comes up with a useful way to recycle them into more essential items.

Tell us a little about your other writing?

I write across the speculative spectrum and at all different lengths. I have a lot of flash fiction and short stories published in a range of local and international markets, including Takahē, newsroom, Strange Horizons, Analog, and various Year’s Best anthologies. Many of them are free to read online and you can find links on my website. I have also published three near-future thriller novelettes, a short story collection Alt-ernate, and a (sub)urban fantasy witchy fiction novella Against the Grain.

What are you working on now?

My focus for the last year has been drafting a post-apocalyptic urban fantasy trilogy containing all of my favourite things—enemies-to-lovers, winged people, monsters, sentient strongholds, necromancy used for good and the wonderful geography and architecture of my hometown. I’m super excited that the opening of the as-yet-unpublished first novel in this series, City of Souls, is a finalist in the Romance Writers of New Zealand Great Beginnings contest this year. It’s more romantic urban fantasy than an actual romance, but I’ve really enjoyed stretching into a new genre area for me. When I’m ready to publish these, they will be the first full-length novels I’ve released (although not the first I’ve written). I’m hoping to publish the first book towards the end of this year, so sign up for my newsletter or find me on social media if it sounds like your thing!

Where can readers find out more about you and your writing?

You can find me and also sign up for my newsletter on my website I’m also on TwitterFacebook and Instagram.

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