Midnight Echo Issue 8 Preview – Shauna O’Mearaon October 25, 2012 at 1:15 am
The Midnight Goblins have Shauna O’Meara with them today. Shauna was the winner of the Flash Fiction category of the annual AHWA Flash and Short Story competition 2012. We’re excited to be publishing her winning story ‘Blood Lilies’ in Midnight Echo Issue 8.
Don’t forget, pre-orders are now being taken for what’s gonna be a wild issue. Just click here for details.
* * * * *
Midnight Echo: What is your favourite short story and why?
Shauna O’Meara: That’s a tricky first question. Trying to name a single favourite short story is like trying to name a favourite song or movie. You see so many and so many affect you in such profound and varying ways at different times in your life depending on: the story itself, the way it’s told, the characters, the use of language, the impact at the end and depending on where you’re at in life when you’re reading it – your mood and your level of understanding.
I’m a sucker for beautiful prose and turns of phrase that insert poetry and rhythm into a tale. I recently Beta-read a short story which used the term “moebius thoughts” to convey the insane, repeating thoughts of an intoxicated homeless woman. That’s exquisite stuff. I am also into new ideas, future technologies and people opening my eyes to possibilities and ways of thinking I haven’t considered before (sci-fi and horror both often do this for me). I also love stories with endings that make me feel joyous and uplifted for having experienced them, even if they don’t necessarily result in a happy outcome for the characters (it’s an intellectual joy, sometimes, I think).
Some short stories that have resonated with me recently include:
Kaaron Warren’s ‘Dead Sea Fruit.’ This is one of the creepiest stories I’ve ever read, rendered even more disturbing by the ordinariness of the setting and the depiction of an illness seen almost as commonplace in our society.
‘Ponies’ by Kij Johnson. This is a chilling, My-Little-Pony-esce twist on the concept of initiation ceremonies and bullying. The gut-punch ending is superb.
‘Our Human’ by Adam-Troy Castro. I was originally attracted to this Tor.com short story by John Jude Palencar’s incredible sepia-tones illustration, but I’m so glad I found it. It is an amazing, slow-burning, beautifully-written, intense story about alien mercenaries coming to retrieve an old human who’d committed past atrocities from the alien village which had taken him in and adopted him (though never as one of them). The setting is desolate and forbidding. The characters are all alien to each other and have their own cultures and ways of seeing the world. The story is about alienation, isolation and acceptance and, in a way, what it means to be human or whether such a definition exists at all. The language is beautiful and there are some genuinely chilling horror elements there as well (particularly if parasitic disease unnerves you as it does me).
Midnight Echo: What was the inspiration behind Blood Lilies?
Shauna: ‘Blood Lilies’ had two inspirations.
Firstly, having trained and worked as a veterinarian, I have a strong interest in and morbid fascination with parasitological disease and the lifecycles of species that live by feeding and breeding on others. Some of the world’s parasites are pretty disturbing, though they do provide good material for horror stories.
Secondly, I adore Japanese manga and anime and loved the series ‘Mushi-shi’ which revolves around a healer-character walking the countryside curing villagers of supernaturally-acquired illnesses caused by primordial, spirit-like life-forms called Mushi. The different Mushi have lifecycles and ways of creating disease that are very parasitic in nature.
Midnight Echo: What scares Shauna O’Meara?
Shauna: I find people without empathy – those who cannot be appealed to by reasoning or law or appeals for mercy the most frightening aspect of society. That someone can hurt another physically, mentally or financially without even blinking is so foreign to me. I can’t relate to it and the fact it is out there and can randomly impact upon anyone going about their peaceful business is scary.
From a phobia-perspective, I am scared of trains. I think it comes from having grown up in rural WA where the grain trains are kilometres long and where people sometimes get hit on level crossings in the dead of night in the middle of nowhere (the really remote crossings are just a sign with no flashing lights to warn you the train is coming). The raw power and noise of a train as it thunders by is incredible. One slip and, not only will you die, but it will be as though you never existed, pulped into nothing by that immense heat and speed and tonnage.
* * * * *
By Shauna O’Meara
Dust motes rose as the doctor stood in the stuffy bedroom. “I’m afraid I can do nothing more,” he said, straightening his silken dobuku.
“I see. Well, thank you for your time.”
Ayumu felt hot tears prick his eyes as Obaasan’s words sent the young healer on his way.
“Modern medicine… pah!” Obaasan exclaimed, smoothing the kakebuton covers about her. Ever-mindful of appearances even though sight eluded her, Obaasan’s ashen hair was restrained elegantly with a carved wooden comb. She turned her wizened face to Ayumu, perched like a sparrow beside her bed, “I need your help, Ayumu.”
Ayumu leaned forward, “Anything, Okaasan… er, Obaa-chan.” He stiffened, ashamed of the slip. He could barely recall his mother, however, fierce loyalty kept him from replacing her faded memory with the face of the grandmother who’d taken on her role.
Obaasan smiled kindly, pretending not to notice. “A red flower grows in the high mountain field beyond the forest. It is said to restore sight. Fetch one. I can send no-one else.”
Later, as Ayumu trotted through the lilac mist hanging low over the dewy rice field beside the house, he heard Obaasan call, “Don’t pick anything else.”
It took half a day for Ayumu to reach the mountaintop field. The dense beech forest had given way to barren, rocky outcrops and the chilly air was thin. A rose pink sun glowed weakly through veils of white cloud. A field of crimson lilies spread before him.
Ayumu began gathering the red blooms in his basket.
A short way into the thigh-high vegetation, something cracked beneath his sandal. Ayumu kicked aside dead leaves and fallen petals to reveal a scattering of long bones. ‘A deer,’ he thought, marveling at the clean-picked remains.
Many more bones followed, giving Ayumu the impression of walking across dry tinder. The small boy might have been concerned had it not been common knowledge the field was a favoured hunting ground of the daimyo’s samurai. Indeed, Ayumu’s heavy tread and swishing hemp kosode had already stirred several deer from their grazing.
Moving on, Ayumu noticed a pair of white lilies. The two blooms gave off an intoxicating smell not shared by their crimson siblings and, thinking of the joy their perfume would give blind Obaasan, Ayumu added them to his basket.
* * * * *
Biography – Shauna O’Meara
Shauna O’Meara is an artist and writer based in Canberra, Australia. She writes science-fiction and horror and recently placed second in the 2012 Conflux 8 short story competition and first in the 2012 AHWA flash fiction competition. Her artwork has appeared in “Winds of Change” (CSFG publications) and “Masques” (CSFG publications). She is currently working on her first science-fiction novel.