Black Dogs, Black Tales

Oh, playing catch-up on the posts I should have made…

Anyway, I have a story out! It’s not a new one, but it’s been reprinted in an awesome charity anthology, Black Dogs, Black Tales, which is benefiting the Mental Health Foundation of New Zealand. It’s subtitled Where the Dogs Don’t Die, so don’t worry about turning the page and finding poor Cujo. Some of the tales in here are pretty grim, but the dogs survive so that’s the main thing.

My story, which the editors Tabatha Wood and Cassie Hart kindly included, is “The Feather Wall,” which was first published last year in Reckoning. The dog in this story – cleverly called Dog – is one of those service animals trained by the Department of Conservation to protect our native birds. In this case, the kākāpō: a flightless parrot native to NZ which is teetering on the brink of extinction. It’s basically kept alive on offshore islands which have been stripped of introduced predators like rats and stoats. Anyway, “The Feather Wall” is a post-apocalyptic story wherein a man and his dog keep up their conservation work, because kākāpō are worth protecting even if the world has gone to shit. They really are! Anyway, if you’d like to read the anthology and support a good cause, the link’s above. 

The Feather Wall

I’ve a new story out! “The Feather Wall” is in Reckoning 3, which is free to read on their website. You can also buy the full anthology rather than waiting to read all the rest of their wonderful 2019 stories as they come out if you would prefer!

Anyway, “The Feather Wall” is about kakapo conservation after the apocalypse. Kakapo, if you don’t know of them, are an extremely endangered flightless parrot from New Zealand. They were getting along fine until humans came, but they’re a bit dopey and hopeless and were easily caught and eaten – not just by humans, but by the cats and ferrets and dogs and so on that humans brought with them. There are only a couple of hundred kakapo remaining, at time of writing, in their predator-free island sanctuaries. Fortunately their numbers are actually going up, thanks to the kakapo conservation programme run by NZ’s Department of Conservation (DOC). If you think about it, the world we live in today is actually post-apocalyptic from the perspective of the kakapo!

Be that as it may, “The Feather Wall” takes place in a time where plague has killed off most people on the planet. Martin, a DOC ranger on Resolution Island, is left trying to preserve his tiny population of kakapo, knowing as he does that when he dies they’ll likely be overrun by the predators he keeps away. It’s a hopeless task, he thinks, but he can’t make himself stop.

I love post-apocalyptic stories, but I’m really fed up with a) their insistence on humans falling into horrible brutish violent behaviour, and b) the rate of sexual assault that’s supposedly justified in the name of preserving the species. Here, the obsession with breeding after apocalypse is directed in a wholly positive way, in ensuring the continuation of the kakapo, and the people who survive the plague have no time for viciousness when there’s conservation to be done! Anyway, here’s a short taster, and please consider buying the antho. It’s full of environmentally-flavoured fiction, and is well worth reading.

“No, I’ll not leave you,” he said, stroking one of the big soft heads. “Don’t worry, I’m not going anywhere.” They were as good as quarantine, were kakapo. It was as if Resolution had a wall around it of feathers and expectation, a thin wall and a flexible one but one that kept him in regardless. And there was nowhere else for him to be, really. His biology had been ecology and conservation more than anything, his university experience a series of field trips punctuated by lectures, and if there was anyone left out there looking for a cure for plague he’d be pretty bloody useless. Better to stay with the birds and hope that Resolution was isolated enough to keep him healthy, hope that if he caught sick anyway the species barrier would protect them.

They were still, he thought, the more precious population.