This month our spotlight shines on Martin Rodoreda, a Sydney based writer and blogger with a love of speculative fiction and ancient history. Martin’s writing tackles contemporary themes such as environmental issues and human rights and aims to examine social structures and dynamics through the lens of speculative fiction.
Martin’s debut novel is also being launched early this month. Set in Sydney in the not too distant future, Salvage tells the story of a young woman’s survival in a world ravaged by pollution, mining and war. With plenty of action and high stakes the novel ultimately operates as a comment on the negative impacts our current way of life is likely to have on future generations.
To promote the launch of Salvage, we asked Martin to tell us a bit about his work, and why speculative fiction is such a useful platform when exploring contemporary social and environmental issues.
Tell us a little about your novel?
Salvage is a post-apocalyptic cli-fi (climate fiction) novel. Excessive mining, human pollution and resulting war have left the earth devastated and all but uninhabitable to humans. A Dome built over the city of Sydney and controlled by the tyrant Silmac protects what is possibly the last bastion of civilisation. When Silver is abandoned out in the badlands by her salvage crew, only a chance encounter with an old mutant saves her. She spends a stormy night outside the dome reading an old diary to pass the time. After risking her life to return, she finds that the Dome no longer offers the protection it once did, as she faces betrayal, makes new alliances, and uncovers secrets that will bring her into conflict with Silmac himself.
What inspired you to write a post-apocalyptic story set in Sydney?
I have always been concerned about the negative impact humans have on the environment. Starting a family of my own amplified these concerns; I don’t want my children and future generations more broadly to inherit a world that is irreversibly damaged. I saw governments doing little about it, and witnessed mining companies investing significant money in propaganda to undermine and detract from the climate change debate. So I wrote Salvage in an effort to do something about it. I’m hoping it will help add balance to the debate and inspire others to do more to push for positive change.
I debated whether to base it in Sydney or to create a generic, fictional city. In the end it came down to realism. Basing the book in a real place makes the story feel more plausible, and hopefully heightens the impact. Some of the iconic and highly recognisable buildings in Sydney were also attractive for the creation of some vivid imagery.
Sci-fi and Speculative fiction usually make statements on the world we live in today despite their foreign – even alien – settings. Is there a balance to be found between the two spheres of research of current affairs/history and imaginative exploration/creativity?
I’m a big believer of balance in everything I do, and my writing is no exception. I personally prefer to read Spec Fiction that is believable, and this is what I have aimed for in Salvage. Readers need to be armed with enough back-story and context to give plausibility to the alien elements in a story in order to relate to it. I’ve utilised many of the classic elements of sci-fi (the mutes in salvage are not dissimilar to zombies or ghouls) but I’ve placed them in a realistic environment and worked hard to create plausible reasons for their existence.
I also spent a fair amount of time getting the balance right between the story and the messages within it. I wanted to ensure that the serious messages in Salvage did not detract from the enjoyment of the story. Readers of Salvage will hopefully be able to get lost in the magic and action of the story first and foremost, and then consider the themes once they have finished the book.
Do you have a regular writing routine? If so, what does it involve?
I have done almost 100% of my writing to-date on the commute to and from work. I catch the train into work, a trip that averages about 55 minutes each way. So I get two 50-minute windows a day to write, something I would struggle to do in an otherwise busy life! Initially it was easy to procrastinate and put aside my writing to read a good book, or watch a movie. But I now use the time almost exclusively for writing, and it is time that I look forward to.
What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve been given?
Developing a routine of writing. Regularity makes a big difference to getting a manuscript finished and helping the story to flow. Creating the discipline of regular writing also helps to push through blockages.
Do you have any advice for emerging writers?
Don’t let blockages stop you. There are plenty of times where I was not feeling happy with what I was writing. But the important thing is to push on and keep writing. There will be plenty of time to clean it up and improve those rough bits during the many edits you’ll inevitably do.
What are you reading at the moment?
I have just finished a book called The Ouroboros Key by Patricia Leslie, another Sydney Writer. It was a great read. I’m now facing the daunting prospect of trying to choose what to read next, from a pile of books that all look great. It’s a nice problem to have!
In your opinion, who/what is the most inspiring…
Writer/Poet? – Terry Pratchett
Book? – The Lord of the Rings
Weather? – Stormy
Time of day? – Any time; inspiration can come from anywhere at any time!
Music? – Alternate
Location? – Anywhere close to nature
Excerpt from Salvage – Chapter 2
Her feet ached, her breathing came in ragged gasps, and her mask continually fogged up, but still Silver pushed on. The wind had picked up to drive the smog away, and she avoided looking behind her, knowing the sun was creeping ever lower in the sky. Her ploy with the mutes had worked and they had given away their pursuit to feast on one of their own. But it would mean little if she could not make the Dome before nightfall. She had been running for a few hours now and the wind was a pleasant relief from the heat of the day. It also increased visibility, and she wanted to take advantage of the fog-free skies to check her progress and get her bearings. She labored on up a steady rise, creeping closer to the top and the view it would afford.
Reaching the summit, she saw the remnants of the inner-west of Sydney sprawled out before her. She was closer to the Dome now, a great, arching structure which climbed up out of the ruins and reached towards the sky before plateauing and beginning the long curve back to the ground. Made of a mesh work of metal and dark glass, it resembled the gigantic, many faceted eye of a fly. Shadows of the sky-rise buildings under its umbrella could be glimpsed through the darkened glass. The most prominent building, Silmac Tower, was located at the very centre of the Dome and its top level and spire pierced the top, thrusting skyward.
The sun was getting low in the sky behind her, and as she watched, it caught the glass panels and bathed the side of the Dome in a kaleidoscope of colours. The dazzling brilliance of the sight was a stark contrast to the surrounding landscape. The vibrant suburbs that once surrounded the city centre were the very image of destruction, as if a titanic sized bulldozer had methodically razed the buildings and homes that had covered the area. There were no intact structures left this close to the Dome, other than the once iconic Harbour Bridge. Being on the far side of the Dome, she could only just glimpse the bridge’s orange-splotched arch. Once the arch had been dark grey and seemingly indestructible, but even its majestic strength was succumbing to the volatile weather. On everything else, earthquakes, violent storms, tsunamis and time had taken their toll, leaving behind kilometres of broken and twisted ruins, black, brown and grey. Sickly weeds and small yellow shrubs were dotted here and there across the landscape, but there were no large trees left.
You can find out more about Martin on his website.