Today I'm going to chat briefly about my contribution to the Para Kindred anthology, a story entitled "The River Flows". At the time of writing I was revisiting the first of the Wraeththu tales, that I had last read in 2009, so much of the world-building was fresh for me. Consequently I felt the outsider's fascination with the Wraeththu.
One of the facets of the Wraeththu Mythos that I find utterly fascinating was the status of women in the new order; how the advent of the Wraeththu had in a sense freed women from the tyranny of men. And that's when Eva came to mind.
She is the not-so-impartial observer who watches the changes unfold and, when her time comes, helps nudge more change into being. She herself takes on a role in the new world yet at the same time she is aware of her status as being an outsider.
"The River Flows" unfolds in one of my favourite regions in southern Africa: the Cederberg, which is situated slightly inland from our West Coast. This is a semi-desert set within a mountain range cut through by lush river valleys. Many ancient rock art sites belonging to the bushmen can be found here, and the place itself is steeped in history. The contrast between the different landscapes within this region is awe-inspiring. One moment you'll be walking through verdant lucern fields or vineyards then you'll find yourself in a shale band of strange, twisted sandstone rock formations, or wandering across a sand flat covered in restios (reed-like grasses). Venerable cedar trees endure in the kloofs, and if you are lucky, you might find the rare snow protea on the slopes of the Sneeuberg or red disas flowering by a waterfall. Leopards still leave their spoor if you know where to look.
I spent many childhood holidays on a farm here, and there's a part of me that constantly wishes to revisit this world in my fiction (perhaps a subconscious need to escape from the routines of city life). Of course when I saw the call for submissions for the Para Kindred anthology, my plot bunnies began to hop about madly, and I had to ask myself: How would the farmers living in the Cederberg react with the downturn in socio-economic conditions preceding the rise of the Wraeththu? What would happen when the first Wraeththu came calling? Which of my favourite African myths can I work in? (A hint: I'm fascinated by tales of the watermeid.)
Africa is a harsh land, and those who wish to live in her more arid regions must be, by nature, willing to be hard. This is not always easy for those who are of a more sensitive disposition, and I wanted to show the conflict that arose between father and son. I also explored the sense of obligation a woman has to a family she has worked for her entire life. Eva is trapped by her sense of duty, and the Wraeththu Taym does more than enchant the farmer's son; he is the catalyst that allows her to cut her bonds and find her own path and make her own fate.